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Slew of turncoats- a boon or bane for BJP in Garhwal Lok Sabha?

Tuesday, 09 April 2024 | Gajendra Singh Negi | Karnprayag

In the prelude of the Lok Sabha elections 2024, the opposition Congress has got hit by a flood of defections of its leaders. Almost all of these turncoats have found shelter in the ruling BJP which at present appears overloaded with leaders. Though defection of leaders have occurred in all parts of the State, the phenomenon of more prominent in Garhwal parliamentary constituency which is spread into four districts (Pauri, Chamoli, Rudraprayag and Tehri) of Garhwal division and Ramnagar Assembly constituency of Nainital district.

In Garhwal, the BJP elicited a sort of exodus from the Congress when Manish Khanduri who had unsuccessfully contested on a Congress ticket from Garhwal Lok Sabha in the year 2019 left the party. It was believed that Khanduri will again contest from Garhwal but surprising everyone he resigned and joined the BJP. Apart from him, the only MLA of Congress in Garhwal, Rajendra Singh Bhandari (Badrinath) also joined the BJP bandwagon. Many leaders whom the Congress had given its tickets to in the Assembly elections of 2022 have also resigned from the party. The list includes names like Shailendra Singh Rawat (Yamkeshwar), Kesar Singh Negi (Chaubattakhal), Nawal Kishore (Pauri) and Anukriti Gusain (Lansdowne). All these leaders barring Gusain have joined the BJP and are asking voters to exercise franchise in favour of BJP candidate Anil Baluni.

 The exodus of leaders from Congress to BJP has given a natural psychological advantage to the saffron party. However in many areas, the inclusion of Congress leaders is being objected to by the local BJP leaders and workers. The locals are also not taking the defection of their leaders kindly and are labelling them opportunists.

 In Chamoli district, where the heavyweight politician and now ex-MLA, Rajendra Singh Bhandari defected to BJP, the simmering discontent in the BJP workers is clearly visible. Annoyed by the entry of Bhandari, the in-charge of Karnprayag Assembly of BJP Nawal Bhatt has resigned from all posts of the party. There are many local BJP leaders who have expressed their protest to the party leadership on entry of Bhandari in BJP.

 “Bhandari had always opposed us in all the past elections and he was considered as bête noire of BJP in the area. Till yesterday we used to call him corrupt but now he is in our party. No local leader was consulted by our leadership before inducting him. In such a situation it is difficult to work alongside him in the party,’’ said a local BJP leader.

 A similar situation is being observed in Pauri, Yamkeshwar and Chaubattakhal Assembly constituencies where Congress candidates of 2022 elections have joined BJP. In Srinagar Assembly, Mohan Kala contested on UKD ticket in 2022. He is in BJP now and is actively managing the affairs of Anil Baluni in the ongoing election campaign which is now going down well with local BJP leaders and workers.

In such a situation some political observers opine that the defection card of BJP could prove counterproductive for BJP in Garhwal LS and its candidate Anil Baluni.

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