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THE defeat of Congress candidate Saket Bahuguna, son of Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna in the Tehri Lok Sabha byelection, is a personal defeat of the Chief Minister who vacated the Tehri Lok Sabha seat after his elevation as Chief Minister of the state after the state assembly elections in March this year.
The issues of inflation, capping of the LPG cylinders and a spate of corruption scandals coming out of the Congress closet at the Centre at regular intervals weigh heavily against the ruling Congress in the byelection.
The lackluster performance of the state Congress government also added to the disillusionment of the voters of the Tehri Lok Sabha with the ruling Congress.
More than any preference for the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), it was the general mood of despondency of the people crushed under the rising inflation, corruption and lack of governance that led to the crushing defeat of the ruling Congress candidate.
Congress managers were well aware of the issue of capping of LPG cylinders by the Union Government and did try to undo the damage by promising to give three more subsidised cylinders in the Congress-ruled states.
Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna even at the risk of inviting action by the Election Commission also promised to take up the issue of getting at least 12 subsidised cylinders per family per year.
However, the decision of the Central Government to increase the price of the unsubsidised cylinders by another Rs11 per cylinder as part of the dealers' commission three days before polling acted as rubbing salt on the wounds of the common voters.
To top it all, Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna addressing a press conference two days before the crucial day of polling announced that an increase of Rs11 per cylinder was not much. He also annoyed the common people by stating that inflation and corruption were not the main issues in the byelection. He tried to explain that inflation was a worldwide phenomenon and still India was able to withstand the economic meltdown hitting the world.
Probably, he failed to understand that the common man, annoyed with the political leadership of the country, was in no mood to understand the nitty gritty of the world economics but was more concerned about price rise and inflation hitting their own family budgets.
The management of the byelection by senior Congress leaders, including Congress legislators, left much to be desired. The results of the assembly segments of Dehradun city indicated that the Congress legislators failed to motivate the voters.
Interestingly, while the Congress got a drubbing in Dehradun city and Mussoorie, it did comparatively well in the hilly districts of Tehri and Uttarkashi.
The party did well in the areas of Tehri and Uttarkashi districts, the worst affected by natural disasters, and particularly dominated by the Thakur community. In Chakrata, the lone hilly assembly segment of Dehradun district, the Congress won by a thumping margin of 11,361 votes.
It was the hard work and personal charisma of Congress legislator and minister Pritam Singh which led to the one-sided polling in favour of the Congress. The Congress, despite having four legislators out of seven assembly segments of Dehradun district, lost in six segments.
Another faux pas by the Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna was having a tiff with Shoorveer Sajwan, a senior Congress leader.
Shoorveer Sajwan had lost two consecutive assembly polls as Congress candidate in 2007 and 2012, respectively, and was a spent force.
A known detractor of Vijay Bahuguna, the Chief Minister by picking up a quarrel with him and then sending many senior ministers to placate him gave him a chance to hog publicity which proved negative for the Congress candidate.
The defeat could spell fresh political trouble for Vijay Bahuguna. The rebel faction, led by Union Minister Harish Rawat, which had been lying low during the run-up to the Tehri byelection, would again be active against him.
The first thing they would want is replacement of Uttarakhand Congress chief. Harish Rawat had been asking for quite sometime a full-time state president since Yashpal Arya, the present party chief, was a minister also. He has been rooting for Pardeep Tamta, Almora Congress Lok Sabha MP and his own protégé.
It is believed that a change in the state Congress leadership is imminent since in charge of part affairs Birender Singh had announced to appoint a new state party chief after the Tehri bypoll.
If Harish Rawat is able to have his own man as state party chief, he would be having complete control over party machinery in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. This would further isolate the Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna in the party.
It was possible that before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, there is clamour by the Harish Rawat faction to demand a change in the state leadership also.
— By SMA Kazmi
CM's Blunder
Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna addressing a press conference two days before the day of polling announced that an increase of Rs 11 per cylinder was not much. He also annoyed the common man by stating that inflation and corruption were not the main issues in the byelection. Probably, he failed to understand that the common man was in no mood to understand the nitty-gritty of the world economics but was more concerned about price rise and inflation hitting their own family budgets.


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