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Candidates Chosen

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Selecting the right candidates for the electoral fray is half the battle won. This was the big challenge before the BJP in Uttarakhand, which is why it obviously took its time in deciding on who would contest from the five Lok Sabha seats it holds in the state. One challenge was whether the sitting MPs would be repeated. Two of them are getting on in years – Maj Gen BC Khanduri (Retd) and Bhagat Singh Koshiyari -and had reportedly expressed their unwillingness to contest due to ‘health’ reasons. At the same time, though, they were hoping to pass the baton on to their own followers. This goes against the grain of the cadre-based BJP, which prefers that its members owe loyalty to the party organisation rather than just individual leaders. So, the creation of personal political legacies is avoided as much as possible. On both these seats, committed leaders whose loyalty has been tested over time, Tirath Singh Rawat and Ajay Bhatt were chosen to contest.
The decision on continuing with Mala Rajya Lakshmi Shah must have been a difficult one, as she has been by and large a non-performer. Neither has she played a pro-active role in the Lok Sabha, nor served the constituents in any particular way at the grassroots. Having unseated two of its senior MPs already, the party leadership must have decided to go it easy on her because she is a woman with definite winnability obtained from a traditional support base. Also, her constituency comprises areas that are more affected by the Modi charisma.
There was no reason to disturb Ajay Tamta, who serves as Minister of State at the Centre and is being groomed for bigger things. Haridwar was expected to be contentious, but with the present equations there, incumbent Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ seems well placed. Quite obviously, while the BJP is banking on the Modi factor to take it to victory, it is not averse to exploiting the situation to reshape power equations in the state unit of the party. It will not just be a test of the power wielded among the electorate by the contending parties, but also the factions within. There is bound to be subversive behaviour from those left out and not having the acumen to sit things out – particularly those hoping to ‘adjust’ sons and daughters. This will however have been factored in by the BJP. Now it remains to be seen who these candidates will face from the major opposition, the Congress, and whether there will be any significant independents.