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LS polls: Pauri Garhwal, Haridwar seats in U'khand may see close contest, say experts

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NewsDrum Desk
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Dehradun, Apr 17 (PTI) The BJP, which won all the five seats in Uttarakhand in the last two Lok Sabha elections, may face a tough fight this time in two constituencies -- Pauri Garhwal and Haridwar -- in the state, poll observers have said.

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The polling in the hill state will be held in the first phase on April 19, with the campaigning for the five seats ending on Wednesday.

Former state Congress president Ganesh Godiyal is pitted against BJP national spokesperson Anil Baluni in Pauri Garhwal while Congress veteran and former chief minister Harish Rawat's son Virendra Rawat faces former CM Trivendra Singh Rawat of BJP in Haridwar.

Baluni's proximity to the BJP's central leadership is well known but he is being looked upon by the people in the constituency as a "parachute candidate", said Jaisingh Rawat, a Dehradun-based political analyst.

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"His connect with the voters is not as strong as Godiyal's," he told PTI.

"Godiyal delivers his speeches in Garhwali and makes an immediate connect with locals. He has also contributed to a degree college in Paithani, one of the most backward areas of the constituency," the expert said.

"Pauri is the Uttarakhand's largest district worst hit by migration mainly due to lack of educational and health facilities. Godiyal who owns industries in Mumbai has donated for welfare activities in the constituency making a positive impact on the locals," he said.

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Godiyal has been campaigning aggressively in the constituency and his poll rallies are drawing spontaneous crowds. However, it will have to be seen whether this public response translates into votes for him, Jaisingh Rawat added.

However, according to locals, they do not see a better alternative to Prime Minister Narendra Modi though they are not very satisfied with the neglect of the constituencies by MPs after being elected.

"They come to us for votes in election time and disappear for five years once they win," said Kamal Dhyani, a local youth in Pauri.

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There is also resentment among the youth over the Agniveer scheme, which is a short-term scheme for recruitment in the armed forces. They are also not happy with the slow progress in the resort receptionist Ankita Bhandari murder case.

People in Chelusain in Pauri Garhwal have complaints against the local MP and MLAs but they feel they should vote for Modi in the national interest.

"People are not happy with Agniveer yojana and the tardy pace of investigation into Ankita Bhandari's murder but feel there is no match to Narendra Modi," a resident said.

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A political expert in Haridwar said Baluni's closeness with the BJP top brass has raised hopes about his getting a cabinet berth in the Modi's next term if he wins the seat. "This factor might work in his favour," he said.

On the Haridwar seat, expert Jaisingh Rawat said that Trivendra Rawat, a senior BJP leader and former CM, is definitely miles ahead of Virendra Rawat in terms of experience but vigorous campaigning by Congress veteran Harish Rawat for his son and the demography of the seat which has substantial 30-35 per cent minority votes might make the going tough for the BJP candidate.

However, some analysts feel Trivendra Rawat's experiential edge over Virendra Rawat and the overriding "Modi factor" might help him sail through.

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"Modi is once again the deciding factor. A stable BJP government at the Centre in his leadership is what people will vote for and the BJP will retain all the five seats in Uttarakhand.

"However, the victory margin in Haridwar this time might be narrower than last time," Haridwar-based political analyst Dr Pradeep Joshi said. BJP's star campaigners like Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh and J P Nadda have also been asking for votes in the name of Modi saying a third term to him as PM will pave the way for building a developed India.

If the "Modi magic" works again as it did in 2014 and 2019 general elections neutralising the local factors, the BJP will obviously reap the benefits but if unemployment, inflation, continued migration from the hills and performance of BJP MPs over the past 10 years outweigh the national issues, the Congress will gain, said another poll observer.

Uttarakhand Congress president Karan Mahara has vehemently raised the issue of the plight of villages adopted by the BJP MPs for development as model villages.

"The MPs were supposed to adopt five villages in their respective constituencies and develop them as model villages. However, all the villages adopted by the BJP MPs are still awaiting development. The BJP's lie has been exposed and people will punish the party on April 19," Mahara said.

Both Haridwar and Pauri Garhwal are prestigious seats held in the past by BJP and Congress heavyweights. While former chief minister Harish Rawat won from Haridwar in 2009, another former chief minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank (BJP) snatched it from the Congress in 2014 defeating Harish Rawat's wife Renuka. He has held it since. However, the BJP fielded Trivendra Singh Rawat in place of Nishank this time against Virendra Rawat who is making his poll debut.

Pauri is also a high profile seat which was won in the past by former chief minister Bhuvan Chandra Khanduri and Satpal Maharaj. It is held at present by former chief minister Tirath Singh Rawat.

However, poll observers are unanimous in their view that Narendra Modi might once again emerge as the sole overriding factor working in favour of the BJP candidates as it did in 2014 and 2019 general elections when the party swept all the five seats in the state. PTI ALM DIV KVK KVK

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