Dehradun: Tasked by the BJP to lead the charge in Uttarakhand assembly election as its government struggled in the face of graft allegations, BC Khanduri managed to make it a close fight with the Congress but fell short of notching a victory for the party.
Under the 78-year-old Khanduri’s leadership, the BJP got 31 seats, five short of its tally in the last elections, while the Congress emerged as the single largest party with 32 seats in the 70-member assembly.
However, Khanduri’s candidature for chief ministership failed to charm the voters of his own constituency Kotdwar, where he lost to the Congress candidate Surendra Singh Negi by a margin of 4,632 votes.
In September last year when Khanduri, a former army general, was made the chief minister, the BJP appeared to be facing a downslide because of allegations of corruption against his predecessor Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’.
The BJP also centered its election campaign in Uttarakhand around the personality of Khanduri, known as ‘Mr Clean’.
Khanduri hai zaroori (Khanduri is necessary) was the slogan on which the party went to polls in the 70 constituencies.
Ironically, while Khanduri lost, Nishank won from Doiwala assembly seat.
Even Khanduri’s critics may have to admit that he played a major role in reviving the state BJP unit. After becoming the chief minister in September last year, Khanduri had ensured passage of the Lokayukta Act which was not only praised by Team Anna but also gave the party a talking point in the
election as well.
Putting up a brave front, Khanduri today said he had very little time to lead the BJP in the elections.
“I did not have any magic wand but I tried to do my best during this short period of 3 months and 14 days,” he said.
However, the sailing never turned out to be smooth in Khanduri’s constituency of Kotdwar. As the BJP was projecting Khanduri for the top job in the state, in Kotdwar constituency his Congress rival was using the same discourse to trip him.
Locally entrenched Congress leader Surinder Singh Negi ran a well organised campaign telling voters that Khanduri would move to Dehradun after becoming chief minister and there would be no one to address local problems.
The caste equations in Kotdwar, where Negi’s caste was numerically the strongest, and dissidence within the BJP’s local unit were other factors which hampered his campaign.
Referring to his defeat, Khanduri said, “I admit that I could not give due time to the people of Kotdwar during electioneering.”
“I felt that the entire state is my constituency and I had been representing Kotdwar during 1991 to 1997 and the voters there knew me very well.
Despite this fact, whatever verdict has been given by the people, I accept with all humility,” he said.