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The contest for the 2022 state assembly elections has truly begun with the release by the ruling BJP of its first list of candidates. This list comprises 59 names, with ten sitting MLAs having been replaced. It was expected that a number of MLAs would be sacked but it seems the party High Command has been somewhat conservative in the culling, as more were expected to get the axe. Very likely, the remaining eleven seats are the more contentious ones and may reveal the party’s plans better. The sudden withdrawal of former CM Trivendra Singh Rawat will also have created some confusion regarding the usually hard fought Doiwala seat. The naming of Savita Kapoor in the late Harbans Kapoor’s place for the Dehradun Cantt seat is not unexpected as the sympathy factor is likely to play a big role.

Kunwarani Devyani as the Khanpur contestant comes as a surprise and more probably will become known about the decision in the days to come. Considering the principle of one family, one candidate, it seems Kunwar Pranav Singh has gracefully agreed to exit. Kashipur has witnessed the nomination of Trilok Singh Cheema because of the BJP’s break-up with the Shiromani Akali Dal. Another important change is the dropping of sitting party MLA Ritu Khanduri from Yamkeshwar, reflecting how equations have altered since Major General Khanduri’s heyday.

Experts will weigh in further on the choices made, but many were a given from day one – be it CM PS Dhami from Khatima, or the party MLAs from Doon. Subodh Uniyal and Rekha Arya have been steadfastly loyal and have had no difficulty in gaining acceptance from the party. The whole point of Savita Arya’s recent induction was to exploit the Congress vulnerability in Nainital.

There will, of course, be heartburn among overlooked aspirants in some constituencies, but that factor will have been carefully considered in the complex calculations that are made when gauging winability. It is obvious that considerable thought has been given to the selection of candidates and Congress will have to work hard to counter. In fact, a senior candidate like Leader of the Opposition in the outgoing assembly Pritam Singh will find it difficult to stave off the challenge posed by BJP’s Ramsharan Nautiyal, boosted as the latter is by his son Jubin’s popularity. It must be remembered that even as party affiliations matter, the legislators too are an important factor in getting the votes, be it through their work or personal affiliations.