Rawat, Congress chief prepare separate list of candidates, trigger tension
By Our Correspondent
New Delhi , 11 Jan, 2017 :: Long-simmering tensions between chief minister Harish Rawat and state Congress chief Kishore Upadhyay have again come to the fore at the time of ticket distribution for 2017 assembly elections. According to party insiders, battle lines have been drawn between Rawat and Upadhyay with both preparing two separate lists of candidates for the polls. The senior leaders came up with separate lists after "serious differences" emerged between the two on fielding candidates from as many as 15 seats.
Three meetings of the Congress screening committee, presided over by former Union minister for social justice and empowerment Kumari Selja, have failed to resolve the deadlock over ticket distribution, a party source said. The separate lists of candidates prepared by CM Harish Rawat and the state Congress chief is expected to be discussed before the Congress Central Election Committee in the next few days.
A Congress member on condition of anonymity told TOI, "Both Rawat and Upadhyay have claimed that tickets on 63 seats have been finalized but there are at least 15 seats, including those won by Progressive Democratic Front (PDF) members in 2012, on which differences exist between the two camps."
He added that some party members, including MLAs, have been asked to shift their seat, to accommodate PDF members. "While Upadhyay is pitching for organisation workers, Rawat has thrown his weight behind fielding PDF and BJP turncoats on Congress ticket."
Congress's ally PDF - which comprises three Independent MLAs, 2 BSP MLAs and one from Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKD) - has been a bone of contention between Rawat and Upadhyay, with the duo engaging in a public spat over the issue several times this year. On many occasions, Upadhyay had asked PDF members to make their stand clear on the 2017 polls, which caused a war of words to erupt between the Congress and the PDF. Rawat had then publicly chided Upadhyay, calling his statements against PDF members "irresponsible".Upadhyay, however, denied that there were any differences with the CM over distribution of tickets. Talking to TOI on Tuesday, he said, "Both of us are dedicated soldiers of the Congress. Some people in the BJP cannot see us working in tandem therefore they are spreading such rumours. As committed party members, we want the best candidate from each seat, therefore the process is taking a bit of time."
Some Congress workers, however, said that the delay in announcement of candidates had led to anxiety among cadres and was derailing the party's poll campaign.
But a few party members tried to downplay the issue. A Congress leader said that "minor differences" were bound to emerge during the ticket distribution process. "Both Rawat and Updhyay are pushing for the best candidates. Everyone wants a party ticket but there are only 70 assembly seats, it is not possible to please everyone," he said.
Upadhyay and Rawat have locked horns over other issues in the past. Earlier in the year, Upadhyay accused Rawat of favouring Kumaon over Garhwal in the state cabinet, the assembly and the Rajya Sabha elections. In a bid to appease the state chief, the CM had inducted two MLAs from Garhwal region, Rajendra Bhandari and Nav Prabhat, in the cabinet.
To stem infighting, the state chief and the CM were summoned by Congress national leadership in August. This seems to have done little to keep the differences between the hill duo from spilling into the public domain. In the latest instance, Upadhyay had said that he was in favour of 'one family one ticket' formula. His statement came at a time when Rawat's two sons and daughter were eyeing assembly tickets.