Uttarakhand CM fails to see writing on the wall

Dehra Dun – The spectre of the Himalayan Tsunami that struck the Kedarnath Valley on June 16-17 last, haunts the prospects of the Congress candidates likely to contest from the Garhwal division of Uttarakhand in the

Satpal Maharaj
Satpal Maharaj

forthcoming Lok Sabha elections slated later this year. There are two parliamentary constituencies – Tehri Garhwal and Pauri Garhwal – in this division.

It is perhaps because of this that the sitting Congress MP from Pauri and Congress heavyweight, Satpal Maharaj, has categorically stated that he will not be contesting from the parliamentary constituency this time and the party high command could look for the next best alternative. This has put the party high command in a dilemma as there is no other name with the same prospects of winning the seat.

Not mincing words, he has said that the neglect of the Himalayan Tsunami areas that were completely devastated and inability of the state government to provide relief and succor to the affected people, despite his repeated requests and pleas was the reason that he was declining to contest. “How can one expect me to face the people who have lost their all and continue to suffer”, he added.

Satpal Maharaj also took exception to the statement of chief minister Harish Rawat, in which the latter assured the Congress high command of winning the Nainital, Almora and Haridwar Lok Sabha seats, but to add insult to injury, conveniently ignored the Tehri Garhwal and Pauri Garhwal parliamentary constituencies. “Who will work to win these seats”, he questioned.

But what has caught the people by surprise is the shying away of former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna from the Tehri Lok Sabha seat, which he represented before being made chief minister of the state for a short stint of just over an year. Bahuguna later threw a bombshell when he said that even his son, Saket Bahuguna, who was the party candidate in the by-election from the constituency and lost, would not be contesting.

Though the Bahuguna have given no reason for backing out from contesting the elections, political pundits here feel that the complete neglect of the flood devastated areas and inability of the state government to provide timely relief and succor to the people, will back fire on the Congress candidates in the Lok Sabha elections and the writing is clear on the wall for all to see.

In fact the things are so miserable that the approach road to a large number of villages that were washed away in the Himalayan Tsunami have yet to be constructed and the people have no one to look forward to. In very many areas the villagers have started contributing money and voluntary labour (shram daan) to put up bridges that were washed away, so that the roads can be used.

It is quite apparent that the differences in the Congress party after the party high command replaced Bahuguna with Harish Rawat have started coming out in the open. While Bahuguna and Maharaj knowing well that they are the best prospects to win the Tehri Garhwal and Pauri Garhwal Lok Sabha seats want to deny the chief minister the credit of winning these seats, Rawat on the other hand wants to reflect that he is the sole leader of Kumaon division of the state and will win the three seats that fall in this division.

In fact, he is so sure of winning that he is also trying to convince the party high command that the ticket for the Haridwar parliamentary constituency, which he represented before being shifted to the state, should be given to his daughter Anupma Rawat. Anupma has, in fact, already started canvassing in the region and is taking out a padyatra, though no announcement has been made for any seat from Uttarakhand by the party high command so far.

However, political pundits here feel that though Rawat is an old time politician, but this time he is failing to read the writing on the wall, which could embarrass his position as chief minister later. “Rawat has indicated to the party high command that he will win the three seats from Kumaon division, which was why he was made the chief minister to get the votes of the majority rajputs (thakurs) in this small  mountain state, but it is unlikely that the Congress will win even one of the five seats in Uttarakhand”, they felt.

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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