What do NSA chief Ajit Doval, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Rawat, and Chief of the Army Staff General Bipin Rawat have in common? They all come from Pauri Garhwal. This time, a special focus is on the “VVIP” Pauri Lok Sabha seat as former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Major General (Retd) Bhuwan Chand Khanduri’s son Manish Khanduri and his close aide Tirath Rawat are fighting an interesting political battle.
Manish Khanduri, who is a journalist, is serving as India head of news sharing at Facebook and recently joined Congress to fight the Lok Sabha polls from Pauri seat. Khanduri Junior is a new face in Uttarakhand politics while BJP has decided to field former state BJP president Tirath Singh Rawat. With a total of 13.37 lakh voters (including 33,653 service voters), the battle of Pauri Garhwal is directly between two national parties- the BJP and the Congress.
In Uttarakhand, Pauri Garhwal is the worst hit district by migration. Even by producing political leaders like Hemwati Nandan Bahugun, BC Khanduri, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank and Trivendra Singh Rawat, the situation remains grim and the big challenge is to revive migration hit villages. The study of the Uttarakhand Rural Development and Migration Commission shows that out of a total 1212 village panchayats in Pauri, 1025 are adversely hit by migration.
Congress party’s surprise choice, Manish Khanduri, faces a big challenge of building his team and winning the confidence of the Congress workers. Khanduri Junior used to visit Uttarakhand especially during the election time when his father used to contest. After former Uttarakhand Chief Minister BC Khanduri declined to contest polls, BJP opted for Tirath Singh Rawat who is a familiar face among party workers.
BJP holds an edge on the seat with its poll management and popularity of Narendra Modi. Congress can create trouble for BJP if the party workers and leaders can unite. That appears difficult as many senior Congress leaders were keen on fighting from Pauri but Manish Khanduri has changed the scenario.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BJP’s BC Khanduri defeated Congress candidate Harak Singh Rawat by a huge margin of 1.84 lakh votes from Pauri.