3-D Fight In Uttarakhand
While assembly elections in two states– Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh–are approaching, the BJP’s problems are also increasing. Party is in power in Uttarakhand and the BJP high command is very desperate to retain the power in the state. But after the open rebel by two senior state leaders, it seems a bit difficult task. Former CM and senior leader BC Khanduri and BS Koshiyari, both are firm on their stands that they will not work at all under the leadership of present Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhariyal Nishank.
Rajnath Singh and Uma Bharati kick started the election campaign in Uttrakhand through a massive rally on corruption, but the beginning of the campaign was marred by rebels. The two former chief ministers were conspicuous by their absence in the rally. Party sources said that senior BJP leaders had tried hard to bridge the differences among the top state party leaders but failed to bring them together. Though in May, party president Nitin Gadkari had announced publicly that the polls would be fought under the joint leadership of the three leaders, these three leaders have never been seen together at any single programme. However, Uttarakhand BJP’s general secretary Suresh Joshi says, “There is no infighting in the party. We are united. The BJP will register a thumping victory due to the Congress’ involvement in corruption at the Centre.” But the absence of these two former CMs from the rally confirms the 3-D internal bickering in the state BJP.
Insiders feel that Khanduri and Koshiyari, who have been seeking the removal of Nishank, were peeved when Gadkari announced that Nishank would continue to head the government till the next elections, which would also be fought under Nishank’s leadership. Both Khanduri and Koshiyari have demanded that the assembly elections should be fought under no defined leadership and after the results the leader should be selected by the MLAs. Gadkari’s decision of retaining Nishank as the leader has irritated both Khanduri and Koshiyari. And now both are openly opposing Nishank.
It is important to note that both the rebel leaders come from the hilly area of the state and the BJP has more MLAs from the hilly area. Khanduri has a very stronghold in the Garwal region and Koshiyari has in the Kumayu belt. If these two leaders don’t participate actively in the elections, it will hamper the party’s prospects adversely in the elections. It is noteworthy that the BJP has no base in the plain area of the state, i.e. Haridwar and Udhamsingh Nagar. Both districts are dominated by the BSP and the Congress. The BJP high command is aware of this fact. Sources say that after a confidential survey, Gadkari was told that in the present situation party would hardly cross the double-digit figure in the elections. This worried him so much that held several meetings in the state, but all in vain.
“There is no internal fight in the party”—Rajnath Singh, Senior BJP leader and In-Charge of Uttarakhand
You are the in-charge of Uttarakhand. How do you assess the BJP government?
I am fully confident that the BJP government of the state has been working very well. This will result in the BJP winning with full majority in the forthcoming assembly elections. In fact, I believe that we will get more than two-third majority.
What would be the main issue in the assembly elections? What strategy is the BJP planning for it?
The main issue will be development. The Nishank government has done a lot of development works in the field of infrastructure, health, tourism, etc. Also when Major General (Rtd) Bhuvan Chandra Khanduri was Chief Minister, he had also performed very well. If people compare our government with the previous Congress government, they will definitely come to the conclusion that only the BJP could give them good governance.
But there is too much internal fight in the party. Don’t you think that having two main leaders from the state as rebel, party will have to suffer in the elections?
This is not so. There isn’t any internal fight in the party. All the matter has been resolved now and Bhuvan Chandra Khanduri, Bhagat Singh Koshiyari and Ramesh Pokhariyal Nishank staged a meeting with other party leaders in Mussoorie for two days to chalk out the election strategy.
But both Khanduri and Koshiyari were absent in the recently held public meeting in the state, which was addressed by you.
They had already informed us that they wouldn’t be able to attend that programme due to their personal compulsions. But in the Mussoorie meeting both were present.
It is said that Khanduri may leave the party and support third front.
This is completely baseless. It is the rumour spread by the Congress. The Congress itself is divided in many groups in the state and there is a lot of inner fighting in it.
In the recently held election to zila panchayat pradhan of Haridwar the BJP has lost to the BSP. Don’t you think that this indicates the weakness of the party?
We cannot draw any conclusion on the basis of any election to zila panchayat pradhan. There would be some local circumstances, which might have affected the results. But assembly elections are completely different.
So, you are fully confident that the BJP will come back with full majority?
Yes, I am fully confident of winning the full majority.
Interviewed by Ravi Shankar
Apart from these two dissident leaders, RSS and BJP top brass are also unhappy with Nishank. The Chief Minister of the poll-bound state has not only failed to pacify the dissident leaders, but also angered the central leadership with some of his recent decisions, sources disclosed. What is troubling the BJP top brass is that two of its seniormost leaders in the state have been demanding the change in leadership and Nishank has so far failed to mollify them. Sources said that the BJP central leadership has now asked him to personally meet Khanduri and Koshiyari.
Following the party’s diktat, Nishank held a meeting with Khanduri recently and gave him a “status report” of projects, which were launched during the Khanduri’s tenure. Khanduri, however, seemed unmoved and told him that he would react on the “status report” only after going through it. Nishank is also expected to meet Koshiyari soon.
However, there is a general perception among the grassroots workers that CM Nishank is not capable enough to handle the situation. Recently, in the election to zila panchayat pradhan of Haridwar the BJP lost it to the BSP. The angered BJP workers of the district blamed the CM for the defeat. They are angry because the elected candidate is from minority community. A local leader commented that the BJP lost it only because of the negligence by the CM.
Thus it is almost obvious that despite many successful development projects, the BJP might have to suffer in assembly elections. There is only one hope on which Nishank supporters are relying. The Opposition is not strong enough in the state and it is divided too. But analysts believe that in the present situation if the BJP weakens, the Opposition could get united as it did in the election to zila panchayat pradhan of Haridwar. If this happens then again the BJP would have a tough time.
By Ravi Shankar from Dehradun