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Enough Scope

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It isn’t as though the Congress has raked the bottom of the barrel to come up with its first three Uttarakhand candidates for the Lok Sabha contest. This is the general impression being given after the announcement of Jot Singh Gunsola, Ganesh Godiyal and Pradeep Tamta as the respective candidates from the Tehri, Pauri and Almora constituencies. At the same time, it is true that there were leaders with higher profiles who reportedly ducked out of the contest believing that certain humiliation awaited them. On the other hand, if those in the fray now even put up a reasonably good fight, they will be considered to have done a good job.

The BJP will have to be careful these underdogs do not evoke too much of a ‘sympathy’ wave among the voters. That could happen if the election is approached arrogantly or complacently. Also, in a scenario where truly ‘veteran’ aspirants like former CM Harish Rawat still see a political future for themselves, it would be wrong to believe that the Congress candidates have peaked performance-wise. Former MLA from Srinagar (Garhwal), Ganesh Godiyal, for instance, was also an earlier aspirant for the Lok Sabha ticket in 2019, but had to give way to ‘dynast’ Manish Khanduri. Khanduri’s recent exit from the party, analysts state, made Godiyal’s path easier. It is also being conceded that Godiyal has been a very active party member, who has spent the last five years in the forefront of opposition to the BJP. He has legislative experience as a former MLA and has headed the state unit of the Congress.

The Tehri candidate, Jot Singh Gunsola, does not lack legislative experience, either, having been an MLA twice and also head of the Mussoorie Municipality. He is also active in the state’s cricket association. As such, he can be said to have a diverse and wide following. Pradeep Tamta represented the reserved Almora seat in the Lok Sabha in 2009, but lost the next two elections. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2016. As such, he has the requisite experience at the national level. While Gunsola will face-off against three-time incumbent Mala Rajyalakshmi Shah (Tehri), and Pradeep Tamta against sitting MP Ajay Tamta (Almora), the BJP’s Pauri candidate is still to be announced. While it can be comfortably stated that the performance of the Modi Government at the Centre will play a big role in the outcome, there is certainly enough scope for the Congress to put up a good fight.