By Arun Pratap Singh
Dehradun, 11 Jun: Sources in the ruling BJP party have indicated that Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat is mulling contesting the bypoll from the vacant Gangotri constituency in district Uttarkashi.
It may be recalled that Rawat is currently a Lok Sabha member from Pauri constituency and, in order, to remain the Chief Minister, he needs to win an assembly bypoll before September since, as per the rules, one can be a minister or chief minister in the state for a maximum period of six months without being a member of the state legislature. Rawat had taken over as CM in the month of March. With three months having been completed yesterday, less than three months remain for him to contest the assembly bypoll. While, according to the sources in the party, he has been thinking of contesting from one of three or four constituencies, he is alternatively also considering contesting from Yamkeshwar.
The Gangotri seat had fallen vacant due to the sudden demise of incumbent MLA and senior party leader Gopal Singh Rawat due to Corona. Speaking to Garhwal Post, BJP State President Madan Kaushik admitted that Gangotri was one of the options before the party for the CM to contest from.
A final decision, however, is yet to be taken by the CM and the party. Since Tirath Singh Rawat took over as Chief Minister, the state has already seen one bypoll at the Salt seat in Almora district, which was also necessitated by the demise of incumbent MLA Surendra Singh Jeena, again due to Corona. Rawat chose not to contest from that seat and instead declared Surendra Singh Jeena’s brother Mahesh Jeena as the party candidate. Mahesh Jeena won the bypoll rather comfortably.
Sources claim that, apart from Gangotri, Tirath Singh Rawat is also considering contesting from Yamkeshwar constituency in Pauri district which is currently held by Ritu Khanduri Bhushan, who is daughter of former Chief Minister BC Khanduri. If this turns into a reality, it will be a swapping of constituencies meaning that Ritu Khanduri could contest the Lok Sabha bypoll from Pauri seat. However, there is a twist in the tale here. In the 2019 Lok Sabha Election, Tirath Singh Rawat had to contest from this seat against Manish Khanduri, son of BC Khanduri, who had contested on the Congress ticket. BC Khanduri is the political mentor of Tirath Singh Rawat. In case this swap happens, then it might turn out to be a contest between the brother and sister, which the Khanduri family may like to avoid. Also, both the parties may also like to avoid such a situation. This scenario also makes the claim of Gangotri stronger than Yamkeshwar.
Some other party MLAs, including Lansdowne MLA Dilip Singh Rawat and the Badrinath and Bhimtal MLAs, have also offered to vacate their seats for the CM. Sources admitted that, for the present, Gangotri appears to be the easiest and safest bet for Tirath Singh Rawat. So far, since winning the assembly elections in 2017, the BJP has won all the bypolls held in the state.
Sources add that BJP State President Madan Kaushik has directed the party cadre to start preparing for the bypoll. Some meetings also have been held in this regard of the senior party officials and one such meeting was held today. Sources further claim that Rawat would resign from his Lok Sabha seat only after the assembly bypoll and hence there was little possibility for both the bypolls to be held simultaneously. Party sources ruled out any possibility of early assembly elections instead of holding the bypoll, dismissing speculation in political circles in this regard. Sources add that the party workers from Gangotri assembly seat had met the Chief Minister urging him to contest from there. With the current second wave of Corona ebbing, both the BJP and the Congress can hope to start preparing for the polls.
By Arun Pratap Singh