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THE Tehri Lok Sabha byelection has become a prestige issue for Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna and for the ruling Congress in the state. Since the Tehri Lok Sabha seat has been vacated by Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna himself and his son Saket Bahuguna is the Congress nominee, political stakes are high for the Bahugunas.
In the given circumstances, it will not be an easy task for the ruling Congress to win the Tehri Lok Sabha byelection. The overall situation where inflation is skyhigh, petrol and diesel prices are rising and the cap on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders are affecting every household kitchen, the ruling Congress is fighting with its back to the wall.
The opposition BJP is leaving no stone unturned in pressing the issues of inflation, capping of LPG cylinders and lack of developmental initiatives at the local level.
The issues of relief and rehabilitation to the people affected by natural disaster at Uttarkashi and the strike by state government employees on reservations in promotions have also left a sizeable section of voters dissatisfied with the state Congress government.
The scrapping of the Transfer Act for the state government employees by the present state government has also led to resentment among employees, particularly the state government teachers, which form public opinion.
However, as far as the management of elections are concerned, the ruling Congress is better placed than the opposition BJP. Mala Raj Lakshmi Shah, the BJP candidate who is the daughter in-law of erstwhile Maharaja Manvendra Shah of Tehri state, has not been able to campaign aggressively and vigorously as compared to the ruling Congress.
Although, the result of the lone Tehri Lok Sabha byelection will not have any direct impact on either the Central Government or the state government, still it would have a bearing on the political stake of the Bahuguna family.
Political observers believe that a win for Saket Bahuguna will consolidate the position of the Bahugunas in the state Congress politics marking the entrance of the third generation of the Bahuguna family into politics. But, a loss will be construed as a personal defeat of the Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna.
Vijay Bahuguna, was made the Chief Minister of the state after the state Assembly polls in March this year amid resentment by Union Minister of State for Agriculture, Food Processing and Parliamentary Affairs Harish Rawat.
The Congress legislators supporting Harish Rawat for the top post in the state had resorted to a dharna for a week in New Delhi against the decision of the party high command. Later, Harish Rawat was placated by the senior party leadership and his supporters adjusted in various important positions. In the run-up to the Tehri Lok Sabha byelection, there seems to be truce between Vijay Bahuguna and Harish Rawat. Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna even claimed that Harish Rawat was on board in the decision to field his son Saket Bahuguna. Harish Rawat has also been campaigning for Saket Bahuguna in Tehri.
But an electoral setback can change the equation. The defeat could bolster the Harish Rawat faction which could then start a campaign against Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna before the general elections in May 2014 demanding a change in the state leadership. For the opposition BJP, the Tehri Lok Sabha byelection is a test of their popularity and strength for the final match of Lok Sabha polls of 2014.


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