By Arun Pratap Singh
Dehradun, 30 Oct: It is certain now that Chandra Pant, the widow of the late Prakash Pant, will be the BJP candidate for the assembly by-poll in Pithoragarh. Speaking to Garhwal Post, Bhupesh Pant, Prakash Pant’s brother, confirmed this although no official announcement has been made by the BJP thus far. Bhupesh Pant’s name was also being considered by the party but he has declined to contest. Sources within the BJP claimed that sympathy votes in favour of the party candidate could be ensured only if the widow of Prakash Pant contested the poll.
So far, the Congress has also not declared its candidate but sources claimed that Mayukh Singh Mahar, who had lost the 2017 assembly poll to Prakash Pant, had been asked by the party if he was willing to contest and had given his nod. While the process of filing nominations has already begun for the poll for which the polling will be held on 25 November and the counting is scheduled to be held on 28 November, no candidate from any political party has filed nomination on the party symbol, so far. Interestingly, former PCC Chief Kishore Upadhyay, today, openly suggested that ex-chief minister Harish Rawat ought to contest as the Congress candidate from Pithoragarh. No reaction has become available, so far, on this suggestion from anyone in the party.
It may be recalled that the by-poll was necessitated in Pithoragarh due to the sudden and untimely death on 5 June this year of incumbent MLA Prakash Pant, who was also a cabinet minister in the Trivendra Singh Rawat Government.
Prakash Pant, who had begun his political innings as a member of Legislative Council in undivided Uttar Pradesh, had thrice won the assembly elections from this constituency.
However, he had lost the 2012 assembly polls from this seat to Mayukh Singh Mahar of Congress, who too is a powerful leader from the district. In 2017, however, Pant was able to defeat Mahar and wrest back the seat. His sudden death has now necessitated the by-poll.
Political analysts expect a close contest but given the fact that Prakash Pant was a highly popular leader in his constituency and throughout the state, they expect a sympathy undercurrent in favour of Chandra Pant, who is currently a teacher in a government school. She has already applied for voluntary retirement from the Education Department! The election is an issue of personal prestige for Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat who was close to late Prakash Pant and has stated that Pant was like a younger brother to him.
The by-poll is also expected to be a litmus test of the popularity of the BJP Government in the state, which is halfway through its term.