Battle of the General’s in Uttarakhand

Dehra Dun : The chess board is getting ready for the ensuing vidhan sabha elections in Uttarakhand scheduled for February next year. The focus of the two major parties in the state – ruling BJP and Congress – while planning their next moves is on the caste factor and the large number of ex-servicemen and serving soldiers in the state, who could play a decisive role in the battle of the ballot.

While the moves to tackle the caste factor in the state are yet in the initial stages of planning and will take time, the immediate concern is the men in green. While the BJP has made Maj Gen (retd) B C Khanduri the chief minister to tilt the balance of the army men in its favour, the Congress has also roped in two retired generals, one for the Garhwal division and the other for the Kumaon division, to counter Khanduri.

Interestingly it will be battle of wits for these retired generals to woo the men they once commanded. While Maj Gen Khanduri has an advantage in as much that being the chief minister he can dole out sops to the ex-servicemen in the region, the Congress party has asked the centre to see what it can do in this direction through the ministry of defence and ex-servicemen’s organizations.

However, the thorn in Khanduri’s flesh is Lt Gen (retd) T P S Rawat, who was earlier in the Congress but quit the party and joined the BJP. In fact, he is considered very close to Khanduri and had also vacated his assembly seat in Pauri, so that the chief minister could contest from there for the vidhan sabha, as Khanduri was a member of Lok Sabha.

Though Khanduri and Rawat have not fallen apart, but in a bid to forge a third front, Rawat started chiding the earlier Nishank government in the state and exposing its alleged acts of corruption at various sainik sammelans in the different districts of the state. This was not taken to lightly by the BJP high command, who suspended Rawat from the party.

While the BJP high command may have nipped Lt Gen Rawat’s attempts to divert the large army vote bank from the BJP to the third front which was in the offing, it will have to think afresh on how to counter the move of the Congress who have roped in a major general and a lieutenant general to woo the men in green.

It will be no easy task as the Congress has gone a step ahead while planning its move. They have roped in Lt Gen (retd) G S Negi who is a thakur and Maj Gen (retd) J C Pant, who is a Brahmin and thereby taken care of the caste factor also amongst the army men. Incidentally, caste is an important factor in Uttarakhand politics, specially in the Garhwal and Kumaon regions.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

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