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Tactical Substitutions

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With the announcement of former CM Trivendra Singh Rawat’s candidature from Haridwar LS Constituency, and former RS MP Anil Baluni’s from Pauri, the BJP has set its field for the coming electoral contest in Uttarakhand. In the process, two sitting MPs have been dropped. In the case of Pauri MP Tirath Singh Rawat, it was certainly his embarrassing stint as Chief Minister that will have persuaded the party to drop his candidature. It is not that he does not have a following in his constituency, but he is more suited to state politics. Baluni has an excellent record as a party activist and as an RS MP. His youthful profile also serves as an advantage. It should be easy going for him.

There was speculation, earlier, about why incumbent MP from Haridwar, Dr Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ was removed as a Union Minister. Was it because of poor health or for having displeased the party High Command in some way? Whatever the reason, it seems serious enough to have led to his also being dropped as the Lok Sabha candidate. The issue may have been aggravated by the fact that, during the last assembly elections, the BJP had lost seats it had held earlier in his constituency. It cannot, however, be entirely his fault, as the constituency has a heterogenous mix of population with complex equations. Being contiguous to UP, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party have traditionally exercised some destabilising clout. Various castes and communities often respond to sectional concerns related to the neighbouring states when it comes to voting. Such are the complexities that even a ‘non-political’ independent managed to win a Vidhan Sabha seat in the area.

As such, it is not going to be an easy task for Trivendra Singh Rawat to retain the LS seat for the BJP. It also depends on who the Congress pits against him. An advantage for him is that 3 of the 14 VS constituencies of the Haridwar LS seat are in Dehradun district, where Rawat will obtain considerable support. More so, because he has represented the Doiwala constituency as an MLA in the past. Urban Haridwar is also expected to be solidly behind BJP, though the district has more of a rural population. A strong SP candidate will cause harm to the Congress fortunes, while one from the BSP, as always, will draw away BJP votes. The BJP, ultimately, will be banking mostly on the Modi factor to clinch the deal.