By Arun Pratap Singh
Dehradun, 27 Jan: Veteran Congress leader and currently the chief of the Congress Campaign Committee in Uttarakhand, Harish Rawat has had to cave in pressure from the party and circumstances and agree to shift his candidature from Ramnagar constituency to Lalkuan.
It may be recalled that, on 24 January, Congress had released its second list of 11 candidates for the Uttarakhand Assembly polls. This second list had Harish Rawat as the candidate from Ramnagar as Rawat had been indicating for the past few days. However, his one-time close confidante and close relative but now his strong rival, Ranjeet Rawat, who also holds the post of Executive Party President of Uttarakhand had been eyeing this constituency for long and nurturing it. Despite this, Harish Rawat had prevailed upon the party High Command to get nominated as candidate from Ramnagar. Ranjeet Rawat was simply not willing to accept this and he openly declared his intention of fighting the election from Ramnagar as an independent. This rattled the party and the Party High Command got in touch with Ranjeet Rawat in an attempt to convince him to contest on the Congress ticket from Salt. Salt is his old constituency but, after the delimitation exercise, he had lost from there to the then BJP candidate, Surendra Singh Jeena, who had had to shift his constituency from Bhikiyasain to Salt.
Highly places sources in Congress claim that Rawat was willing to contest from Salt only on the condition that Harish Rawat was not made the candidate from Ramnagar. According to the party insiders, meanwhile Harish Rawat too had got rattled after Ranjeet Rawat’s declaration to contest as independent from Ramnagar. Consequently, he too agreed to shift his candidature from Ramnagar to Lalkuan. As a result, Ranjeet Rawat agreed to contest from Salt. The Lalkuan candidate and former MP, Mahendra Pal, has been forced to shift to Ramnagar and Harish Rawat declared the new Lalkuan candidate. As a result of this agreement, party sources claim that Harish Rawat also managed to convince the Party High Command to declare his daughter, Anupama Rawat, the candidate from Haridwar Rural, one of the two constituencies from where Harish Rawat had lost the 2017 assembly elections. Incidentally, Lalkuan seat is adjacent to Kicchha constituency from where Harish Rawat had lost his second election in 2017.
In the past three days, Congress in Uttarakhand has been forced to change candidates at least on 5 constituencies and issue amended lists three times.
That Harish Rawat was fully determined to contest from Ramnagar is evident from the fact that, on 25 January, it was reported in the media that the Congress High Command was willing to change candidates announced in the second list including Harish Rawat. However, Rawat tried to dismiss this speculation as false by declaring that no candidates would be changed by the party and that he would be filing his nomination from Ramnagar on 28 January. However, the issue became quite serious as there were allegations the Congress had gifted at least 9 out of 11 seats to BJP as a result of weak candidates. The speculation in the media ultimately turned out to be true and candidates were changed. Mahendra Pal was shifted to Ramnagar, Harish Rawat to Lalkuan, Mohit Uniyal dropped from Doiwala, and Barkha Rani was also dropped.
Among other constituencies where the candidates have been changed include Doiwala and Jwalapur. In place of Mohit Uniyal, the party has now announced Gaurav Chaudhary as its candidate from Doiwala, while at Jwalapur (SC) seat, instead of Barkha Rani, earlier, the party has now declared Ravi Bahadur as the new candidate.
In addition, Om Gopal Rawat, who had left the BJP after being denied the ticket from Narendra Nagar, yesterday joined the Congress and was declared the Congress candidate from Narendra Nagar against Subodh Uniyal of BJP.
In yet another development, today, sitting MLA from Tehri, Dhan Singh Negi, too, left the BJP and joined the Congress. He was today declared as the party candidate from Tehri. It is now clear that Harak Singh Rawat has not been made the party candidate from anywhere and it will only be his daughter-in-law Anukruti Gusain contesting on the Congress ticket from Lansdowne. All the speculation that Harak Singh Rawat may be given the ticket from Chaubattakhal against Satpal Maharaj ended when Keshar Singh Negi was named from that constituency. Mahesh Sharma has been declared the Congress candidate from Kaladhungi to contest against Bansidhar Bhagat of BJP.
Harish Rawat forced to shift candidature to Lalkuan from Ramnagar
By Arun Pratap Singh