By Arun Pratap Singh
DEHRADUN, 1 Mar: The Uttarakhand Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) has nominated observers for all the five Lok Sabha constituencies to obtain the names of ticket probables and also submit reports to the PCC. This has been done at the direction of the Party High Command. Long after the BJP activated its party workers at the booth and assembly constituency levels, this is the first indication of the Congress leadership waking up to the challenge of the coming Parliamentary polls.
Earlier, a screening committee had been constituted for Uttarakhand by the Congress President, Rahul Gandhi, to shortlist the names of the possible candidates on each of the five seats in the state.
A Congress party official disclosed that Tilakraj Behad has been nominated the observer for Tehri Parliamentary seat, Deputy Leader of the Congress Legislative Party Karan Mahra for the Pauri seat, Dinesh Aggarwal for Nainital, former MP Mahendra Singh Pal for Haridwar, and senior party leader Surendra Singh Negi for the Almora seat. They have been told by the PCC to contact and speak with the party leaders and workers at the constituency level and with party office bearers in the city and district level party units and seek the names of possible candidates based on their popularity and submit the names and a report to the PCC. The names will then be forwarded to the state level screening committee for shortlisting. The shortlisted names will have to be sent to the AICC Screening Committee for the final decision.
It may be recalled that a five member state level screening committee had been constituted by Congress President Rahul Gandhi last month to screen all the possible names and forward the shortlisted names to the AICC Screening Committee. In this committee, there are only two names from the state, namely PCC Chief Pritam Singh and Leader of the Opposition Indira Hridayesh. Other names are Uttarakhand In charge of Party Affairs and CWC member Anugriha Narayan Singh, Party General Secretary, Organisation, Venu Gopal, and Rajesh Dharmani, who is co-in charge of party affairs in Uttarakhand. However, according to party sources, despite this arrangement having been put in place with the objective of minimising possible conflicts and squabbles within the party, there are bound to be tussles for the party ticket. Keeping in view the Congress tradition of the Party High Command of usually not going by the recommendations of the state screening committees and deciding on its own, the party candidates, senior party leaders have started lobbying for the ticket with their political masters at the Central level.
Congress faces a tough task in finalising the names of the candidates in Uttarakhand for the coming general elections due to several factors. One reason is that several heavyweights like Satpal Maharaj and Vijay Bahuguna have already left the party and the party lacks state and national level leaders of that stature, barring former CM Harish Rawat. Another reason is the internal rife within the party which is at its peak currently. This was the reason why the PCC constituted by PCC Chief Pritam Singh last month was not given the final nod by the Party High Command. It may be recalled that PCC had been reconstituted more than a year after Pritam Singh became the PCC Chief. But, even then, it is yet to get the nod of the Party High Command. Sources within the party claim that AICC General Secretary and senior party leader Harish Rawat was unhappy at the non-inclusion of certain names close to him. It may also be recalled that Pritam Singh had promised to keep the size of the PCC small, something that the PCC Chiefs in Uttarakhand have never been able to manage despite promising to do so. But, Singh had to finally announce a jumbo 52 member PCC and even then he failed to make everyone happy and, as a result, the PCC is yet to be constituted.
Interestingly, Harish Rawat had been instrumental in the appointment of Singh as PCC Chief to replace Kishore Upadhyay (who was also appointed as PCC Chief with the blessing of Harish Rawat) but both are currently very uncomfortable with each other. Even Upadhyay is no more comfortable with Rawat. Singh has actually joined hands with Indira Hridayesh, who is an arch rival of Harish Rawat. Sources claim that while Harish Rawat is keen to contest the Lok Sabha poll from Haridwar and is preparing already, Singh is attempting to ensure that Rawat contests from Nainital, from where Rawat is not interested. The Singh-Hridayesh faction claims that Rawat is an outsider in Haridwar and had lost even the assembly election from there in 2017. However, political observers feel that Rawat can still manage to get the party ticket from Haridwar due to his influence at the High Command level, but if he attempts to secure a ticket for a family member from Haridwar, he may not succeed.