Putting all speculations to rest, the Congress on Saturday announced Manish Khanduri’s name from the Pauri Garhwal constituency in its ninth list of candidates for all the five Lok Sabha seats in Uttarakhand. Khanduri, the son of veteran Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former chief minister of the state BC Khanduri, had joined the Congress on March 16. Khanduri’s induction into the Grand Old Party was seen by experts as the Congress party’s response to the BJP’s ‘defection strategy’.
The Pauri Garhwal constituency is held by sitting BJP MP BC Khanduri. However, he will not contest the Lok Sabha this year elections citing poor health. Pauri will witness an interesting battle with Manish Khanduri up against Tirath Singh Rawat, the BJP veteran's political disciple. Both the candidates will try to cash in on the popularity of Khanduri Senior, who is the most formidable leader from the state with a strong support base in his constituency.
Addressing a rally in Dehradun after joining the party, Manish had hailed Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s leadership and said that he sought blessings of his father before coming to the rally.
“I believe that under Rahul Gandhi's leadership, Congress will make country stronger. Before coming here, I sought blessings of my father. He asked me if I can walk on path of truth, I said, 'yes’,” he said.
BC Khanduri was removed last year as chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on defence allegedly after he questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi on national security.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi latched on to the removal of the former army general from the committee to attack the BJP. Speaking at his mega Dehradun rally, Gandhi said, “He (BC Khanduri) gave all his life to Army. But when he asked a question on national security in Parliament & spoke the truth that the way govt should help Army, it is not there, then he was removed from the Chairmanship of that Committee.”
The Congress also fielded former chief minister Harish Rawat from Nainital, state Congress president Pritam Singh from Tehri Garhwal, Pradeep Tamta from Almora (SC) and Ambrish Kumar from Haridwar. It will be a clash of heavyweights in Nainital with Harish Rawat taking on state BJP president Ajay Bhatt and Pritam Singh battling it out with sitting MP Mala Rajya Laxmi Shah in Tehri.