Uttarakhand bypolls: Manglaur, Badrinath set to vote on Wednesday

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Dehradun, Jul 9 (PTI) The Manglaur constituency will see a three-cornered contest and Badrinath a direct fight between traditional rivals BJP and Congress in the Uttarakhand assembly bypolls on Wednesday.

The BJP has never won the Muslim and Dalit-dominated Manglaur seat which has been held either by the Congress or the BSP in the past.

The Manglaur bypoll was necessitated by the death of sitting BSP MLA Sarwat Karim Ansari in October last year and the Badrinath seat fell vacant after sitting Congress MLA Rajendra Bhandari resigned and switched to the BJP in March this year.

BSP's Ansari had won the Manglaur seat in the 2022 assembly polls, defeating Congress's Qazi Mohammad Nizamuddin by a wafer-thin margin of 598 votes. The BJP had finished third in Manglaur in the 2022 and 2017 assembly elections.

Manglaur has seen five assembly polls since the creation of Uttarakhand in 2000. Of these, the Congress has won three elections and the BSP two while the BJP was relegated to the third or fourth position.

In the 2002 Uttarakhand assembly polls, Nizamuddin won the seat on a BSP ticket, defeating Ansari, who was then with the Congress.

Nizamuddin won the seat again on a BSP ticket in 2007, defeating Chaudhry Kulbir of the Rashtriya Lok Dal and pushing Ansari to the third position and the BJP to the fourth.

In 2012, Nizamuddin switched to the Congress and Ansari to the BSP.

Ansari won the Manglaur seat for the first time in 2012 but Nizamuddin wrested it from him in 2017. Ansari won the seat again in 2022, defeating Nizamddin by a narrow margin of 600 votes.

This time, the BSP has fielded Ansari's son Ubedur Rehman against Congress nominee Nizamuddin. Gujjar leader and BJP nominee Kartar Singh Bhadana is also in the fray.

The Congress and the BJP deployed big guns to campaign for their candidates.

Senior Congress leaders Sachin Pilot and Kumari Selja campaigned for Nizamuddin. Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami and Union minister Jayant Chaudhary campaigned for Bhadana.

Traditionally, the party in power in the state has an edge over its rivals in bypolls. Of the 15 bypolls held in Uttarakhand since its creation, 14 were won by the party in power.

Badrinath will witness a direct fight between BJP's Rajendra Bhandari and Congress newcomer Lakhpat Singh Butola.

Bhandari had won the seat on a Congress ticket in the 2022 elections, defeating BJP state chief Mahendra Bhatt by 2,066 votes.

In 2017, Bhatt had defeated Bhandari by more than 5,000 votes. In 2012 and 2022, Bhandari had won the seat as a Congress nominee.

The seat has always been won either by the Congress or the BJP.

The other two candidates in the fray in Badrinath are former CRPF officer Himmat Singh of the Sainik Samaj Party and Naval Khali, a journalist who is contesting as an Independent candidate.

Chief Minister Dhami, state BJP chief Bhatt, Union Minister of State for Road Transport Ajay Tamta and Garhwal MP Anil Baluni campaigned for Bhandari in Badrinath.

Former chief minister Harish Rawat and former Rajya Sabha MP Pradeep Tamta addressed poll meetings to garner support for Butola.

Votes for the bypolls will be counted on July 13. PTI ALM DIV DIV