No Congress list for Uttarakhand yet, party waiting for BJP's next move
Uttarakhand goes to the polls on 15 February, and state Congress leaders are getting nervous because the party has not yet announced its list of candidates. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has already announced its candidates for 64 of the 70 Assembly seats in the state.
The Congress's Central Election Committee (CEC) has already met once, and was scheduled to meet again on Thursday, 19 January. But the meeting was cancelled for unknown reasons.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat, who is in New Delhi, informed the media that the CEC would meet again on Friday, where a final decision would be taken. The CEC had asked Rawat to rethink the names of shortlisted candidates.
However, sources say the Congress is waiting for the BJP to declare its remaining six candidates. A senior Congress functionary claimed that if the BJP decided to field turncoats on the remaining seats, which looks rather likely, there was a possibility that some BJP rebels would join the Congress.
Already, there is growing resentment amongst local BJP leaders who have been denied tickets in order to accommodate Congress rebels. As many as 14 of them have decided to contest as independents against turncoats and 'outsiders'.
It is almost certain that the BJP will accommodate two more outsiders - Satpal Maharaj's wife Amrita Rawat and former CM ND Tiwari's son Rohit Shekhar - among the remaining six seats. This is only likely to intensify the rebellion within the party ranks, giving the Congress a clear advantage on these seats.
Sources say the Congress leadership is reaching out to some of these BJP rebels, and is planning to accommodate them on some seats. "Let them announce the list and then we will take a final decision on the names of the candidates. If we get some strong candidates from the BJP, we can think of letting them fight on Congress tickets," the senior leader told Catch.
Appeal to secular parties
In wake of these developments, Rawat has also appealed to smaller secular parties to join the Congress in its fight against the 'communal' agenda of the BJP. Since the smaller parties do not have much stakes in the elections, it is not yet clear which smaller parties Rawat is referring to. Except for the Congress and the BJP, only the Bahujan Samaj Party is represented in the state Assembly - it has three MLAs.
Experts believe Rawat's words could be a reference to the BSP or the Samajwadi Party, which has entered into an alliance with the Congress in Uttar Pradesh. These parties have substantial stakes in the heavily populated terai region of the state, and an alliance could eventually bring electoral gains to the Congress.
Rawat has expressed his desire to let independent candidates, who supported his government during the President's Rule crisis, be allowed to contest on Congress tickets. But the state leadership has raised objections to letting outsiders get precedence over local leaders.
BJP trying to influence army personnel?
Meanwhile, Rawat and state Congress president Kishor Upadhyay submitted a memorandum to the Election Commission of India, seeking its intervention in the Commanders' Conference to be held on 21 January in Dehradun.
The conference is to be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.
The Congress alleged that the conference was being organised to influence serving armed forces personnel and ex-servicemen, who form a considerable part of the state's population. The party alleged that the conference was being held with the intent of taking political mileage out of it.
"Election Commission has said that governments must provide a level playing field for all political parties. We have given a memorandum to the State Election Commission. We have requested that the conference not be held during election time. This conference can be held after 15 February. They will be most welcome," said Rawat.
He went on to add that BJP had made its intentions clear about fighting the elections in the Prime Minister's name, and his participation in the event could have impact on the elections.
Rawat said: "This is a violation of a level playing field. This is against the directives of the Election Commission. To take political advantage, the Prime Minister is participating in the event. According to media reports, this conference was to be held at the China border in Sikkim. Then why is it being held in Dehradun? The country respects the army. But this action by BJP hurts the pride of our army."
Edited by Shreyas Sharma
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