Filing of nominations for the first phase of the General Elections begins on 18 March.
This phase includes Uttarakhand. It is, therefore, imperative that the two major parties in the state quickly finalise their candidates for the five Lok Sabha seats. It is a difficult task for the BJP because it holds all these seats and has to decide whether any of the incumbents is to be replaced and, if so, by whom. The meeting of the party to decide on the list of the first hundred candidates was held on Saturday evening, but the names were not released till Sunday afternoon. There was speculation, however, that the incumbent MPs in Uttarakhand would be repeated, except for the two who have expressed their inability to contest for reasons of age and health – BC Khanduri and BS Koshiyari. On the Pauri seat, represented by Khanduri, it would not be so complicated, were it not for the compulsions of caste – traditionally, a Brahmin and a Thakur share these two seats. If the Tehri incumbent is repeated, that would mean a Brahmin would be the first choice for Pauri. If there is a deserving Thakur candidate, he will have to be on a very strong wicket to get nominated.
The choices for the Congress are even harder. With almost all of its top leadership lost to the BJP prior to the State Assembly elections, it is having to scrape the bottom of the barrel. The situation is further complicated by the bitter rivalry that exists within the state party leadership, with former CM Harish Rawat struggling hard to remain relevant enough to be given a Lok Sabha ticket. Considering that he is a National General Secretary of the party, he has greater clout with the Gandhi family. This complicates the situation for State Party President Pritam Singh and Leader of the Opposition Dr Indira Hridayesh, who are the ones slated to take the responsibility for the election results. They may find it hard to keep the flock together, particularly if Manish Khanduri is foisted on them as the party candidate from Pauri. The ordinary Congress activists are having to come up with all kinds of elaborate scenarios to keep their morale up. The rally by Party President Rahul Gandhi on Saturday did energise them, but did not indicate how exactly the path to power would be charted. Perhaps, once the candidates of both parties and significant independents become known, the picture will become clearer.