Uttarakhand polls: The battle for Dehradun Cantt promises to be a thriller
One of the most prestigious constituencies for Uttarakhand in its upcoming Assembly polls, Dehradun Cantonment, is surely a political potboiler. An old war horse of the BJP Harbans Kapoor is facing a stiff challenge from Suryakant Dhasmana of the Congress.
Also in the fray is an independent Anup Nautiyal who, till recently was the face of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the state and, is now threatening to be the deciding factor in the contest despite playing on a comparatively weak wicket.
Kapoor is one of the top political heavyweights in the state who has won seven elections in undivided Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. He is now defending his Dehradun Cantonment segment for the second time.
Back in the ring
Sources say that this septuagenarian was keen on seeing a 'sonrise' in his family and wanted the BJP to field one of his sons from this seat. But the party was interested in fielding either him or someone else. So he has thrown his hat into the ring once again.
Kapoor is known for his personal connect with the people of the area and this has been his trump card in all the polls that he has won. People have ignored his shortcomings while remembering his presence at their place on both sad and happy occasions.
Kapoor is backed by the strong presence of Punjabi voters and those who have migrated from the plains to this constituency. Locals say that there are more than 22,000 Punjabi voters in the area. His active involvement in local Ramleela is said to be another one of his plus points.
While reminding the electorate of the work done by him at the local level, Kapoor is banking hard on the support among the local population for the Narendra Modi-led central government on issues like surgical strikes that are being played up by the BJP in a big way.
And in the other corner...
Dhasmana, on the other hand, is a sharp politician who has been working in this constituency for the last five years. While he has a strong support base among the Garhwali population, he has also made a lot of inroads among people from other communities, mainly the poor and the marginalised sections.
He is a former Samajwadi Party (SP) leader and his opponents have tried to vilify him for being one as the SP has been portrayed as a force that opposed the formation of Uttarakhand and side-lined the sentiments of the people from the hills.
His opponents also try to rake up the incident of two of his security men opening fire to stop a mob from attacking his house during the Uttarakhand agitation in which two people were killed. But his supporters are convinced that this is no longer an issue and his name has been cleared by the courts.
With his sharp political maneuverings, Dhasmana is putting up a stiff challenge to Kapoor. His campaign has been built around the developmental issues, particularly inclusive development. He is known to be participating in all the public events of the constituency. Dhasama's political acumen and his ability to get things done in the administration are his big plus points.
And a third
The third major player in the fray is Nautiyal who has made a strong personal base among the electorate by working very hard on people-centric issues.
While leading AAP, he was launching hyper-local agitations on daily basis. "He used to make it to our front page photos almost every third day," said the chief of a local daily in Dehradun.
Nautiyal is promising clean politics and has approached the electorate with an affidavit that on winning he will not align with any of the main political forces in the state but continue to strive for getting people's issues addressed independently.
The Dehradun Cantt story
The Dehradun Cantonment constituency came into existence in 2012. In the 2002 elections, it was known as Dehradun and after delimitation, its profile changed in a big way.
It is primarily a middle-class area that also includes Vasant Vihar where the top political leadership of the state resides. However, it also has new settlements crying for basic amenities.
Lal Singh Gujjar, a voter, will have civic concerns at the top of his mind when he votes on 15 February. He believes that it is time that Kapoor passes on the baton to someone else.
The constituency has traditionally been a stronghold of the BJP. This can be gauged from the fact that Kapoor defeated the Congress candidate by a margin of over 5,095 votes last time despite there being ten candidates in the fray.
But then, the Congress' drawback on the seat has been that it has always fielded a new face and all of them have been from other constituencies. The story is the same this time also.
The voters in several localities are now complaining of a lack of sanitation, proper power and water supply saying that things are not up to the mark in areas, except in posh colonies.
They have pointed out that the area needs new roads, a proper drainage system and that the solid waste treatment plant in Indira Nagar is still incomplete.
The small traders and those in the real estate sector are also miffed with the BJP over demonetisation.
A builder pointed out, "The staff strength in my office has come down from twenty to eight. Several people in the small time property business have now started bakeries or small eating joints. All this will reflect in the voting this time."
When the voting takes place, the electorate will also give its verdict on the way things are in the temporary capital of the state.
Edited by Jhinuk Sen