Garhwal Post, February 8, 2007
For Congress and the BJP, politics has very much been a family affair in Uttarakhand. With so many ties binding their top leadership, it is no small wonder that the region has seen so many of the same names and faces in election after election. The following are a few examples.
The dynastic trend started right from the beginning with Rajmata Kamlendu Mati Shah winning the first Lok Sabha elections as an independent candidate from the Garhwal East constituency in 1951. Her son, the late raja of Tehri State, Manabendra Shah, would win the following three elections on the Congress ticket, retaining Tehri Garhwal as a royal fiefdom until he lost the party’s candidacy to freedom fighter Paripoornanand Painuli in 1971. After a gap of twenty years, he returned to the Lok Sabha in 1991 as a BJP member.
In 1980, the Indira Congress swept Uttarakhand with contemporary leaders such as Harish Rawat and ND Tiwari making their mark. One of the new MPs, Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna, a former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, would later leave Congress once more and join the Lok Dal, becoming its President before passing away in 1989. Two years later in 1991, the BJP would emerge out of nowhere to sweep the same four seats, with Bahuguna’s nephew, BC Khanduri winning from Garhwal. In the previous election, the BJP did not even place second in any of these seats.
In 1999, Vijay Bahuguna, son of HN Bahuguna, would contest the Tehri Lok Sabha seat for the Congress, while his cousin Khanduri remained the incumbent from Garhwal. Despite losing twice, Bahuguna has been enlisted to contest the upcoming byelection for the same seat against the son of Manabendra Shah who passed away last month.
KC Pant, a veteran MP from Nainital, union minister, and former chair of the planning commission, left the Congress in 1998 after nearly three decades with the party. This came hot on the heels of his wife Ila Pant being given the BJP ticket for the Nainital Lok Sabha seat.
In 2002, Amrita Rawat, wife of Satpal Maharaj, a former MP (Garhwal, 1996-1998) and union minister, contested and won from Bhironkhal state assembly seat. She would become the Minister for Power in the new government.
Renuka Rawat, wife of Harish Rawat, another former MP (Almora, 1980-1991) and current State Congress President and Rajya Sabha member, would follow suit by contesting the Almora Lok Sabha seat in 2004. She lost to the incumbent, Bachi Singh Rawat.
Munna Singh Chauhan, a former MLA from Chakrata, contested each of the last three elections unsuccessfully on different party tickets: the Samajwadi Party (1996) the Uttarakhand Janwadi Party (2002) and is currently with the BJP (2007). In the current election, his wife is also standing as an independent candidate from Chakrata, a fact that nearly provoked a conflict of interest crisis with her own husband.
This practice has also rubbed off on smaller parties like the UKD, yet perhaps with greater efficacy. In 2004, Pushpesh Tripathi, eldest son of the late UKD MLA and party president Vipin Chandra Tripathi, won a byelection for his father’s Dwarahat assembly seat. He would become one of the youngest MLAs in India, winning his seat at the age of 25, but also one of the most diligent, being the only MLA to vote against a pay increase for Vidhan Sabha members in early 2006.
For all the others, it has been a tough slog without such family ties. Even such a hero as Vir Chander Singh Garhwali could not win the Pauri seat in the 1962 Lok Sabha for the CPI and the 1967 state elections for the CPM. The political machine at the time was too strong. However, with that same machinery going off the rails in this election, we might see some different outcomes this time.