Dehradun, April 4 (IANS) Newcomer Manish Khanduri of the Congress party is facing an uphill task against the much experienced BJP national secretary Tirath Singh Rawat in the Pauri constituency in the Lok Sabha elections due on April 11.
Congress party sources said Khanduri, son of the former Chief Minister B.C. Khanduri, is virtually fighting a solo battle without getting adequate support from the party’s local MLAs.
Khanduri junior, however, exuded confidence that he would thrash his opponents mainly due to the wrong policies of the Central and state governments, as well as the blessings of his father. Khanduri is mainly banking on the popularity of his father, who is considered to be a big leader in Pauri. Khanduri senior had won the seat five times.
In 2004, the Pauri Lok sabha seat became a battlefield between two top army generals who fought against each other on behalf of the BJP and Congress, respectively. In the ensuing battle, BJP’s Major General (retired) B.C. Khanduri eventually defeated the Congress candidate Lt. General (retired) T.P.S. Rawat by over one lakh votes.
In 2007, Rawat joined the BJP to win the seat, after he vacated his Dhumakot seat for Khanduri, who had become the Chief Minister that year.
However, in 2009, Satpal Maharaj won the Pauri seat defeating Rawat, backed by the Congress wave.
In 2014, Khanduri returned to Pauri to win the election, ensuring that the large number of constituency voters, who come from a defence background, continue to remain his strong supporters.
Five years later, the Khanduri factor is again reigning supreme in Pauri, this time in a different way as his son Manish Khanduri (Congress) is pitted against his protege Rawat.
With just few days left for the election in the state, both Khanduri and Rawat have sharpened attacks against each other claiming they are the real inheritors of the legacy of the former Chief Minister Khanduri.
“I have all blessings of Khanduri ji. He wants that BJP should win again from Pauri. You will see that we will win with a huge margin,” said Rawat.
On the other hand, Khanduri junior has repeatedly claimed that his father was upset after he was removed as the chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence last year.
“I came to contest the election from the Congress mainly because my father was very upset after he was removed from the defence committee. I saw him crying only twice..once at the marriage of my sister and again when he was removed as the chairman of the Parliamentary Defence Committee,” Khanduri junior said.
B.C. Khanduri has won the seat five time since 1991. He lost only once, in the 1996 elections, to Satpal Maharaj, who had contested the seat as the candidate of the Congress (Tiwari) party, which had split from the Congress at that time mainly owing to differences between the late N.D. Tiwari and the then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao.
Congress sources admitted that it would be quite tough for Manish Khanduri at Pauri since some party MLAs like Rajendra Singh and are not supporting him.
With top Congress leaders such as Satpal Maharaj and Harak Singh Rawat joining the BJP, Congress has also lost considerable cadre to the saffron party in the past few years.
“Manish is virtually fighting a lonely battle against Rawat this time at Pauri,” a Congress leader said.