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|February 20, 1998||
Linked by blood but separated by politics.
That, in a phrase, sums up the fight between Congressman Vijay Bahuguna, son of the late H N Bahuguna, former Uttar Pradesh chief minister, and Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Major General (retd) Bhuvan Chandra Khandoori for the Garhwal Lok Sabha seat in eastern Uttar Pradesh.
The maternal cousins has a third party to contend with -- Union Minister of State for Finance Satpal Maharaj, the sitting MP.
The 998,000 voters of Lansedown, Pauri, Karnprayag, Badrikedar and Dehra Dun will cast their votes in 1,443 polling stations on Sunday, February 22.
Prominent among the others in the fray -- in all, there are 13 candidates contesting -- are former Uttar Pradesh minister of state Dr Harak Singh (Bahujan Samaj Party) and former IAS officer Dharam Singh Rawat (Independent).
Carrying varying advantages of lineage, political experience and area familiarity, each candidate is trying to outdo the other in this sprawling constituency plagued by neglect and poverty.
The emotional Uttarakhand issue has been taken up by each party. But it has failed to emerge a vote garner. Touted by all, it has given no party any additional advantage, being just a chord binding all people of the region instead of emerging as a divisive issue.
Fighting to retain the seat, Maharaj has the advantages and disadvantages of being a sitting MP. His opponents target him for the government's failure to create Uttarakhand as also for the alleged attack on women at Muzafarnagar in 1992, when Mulayam Singh Yadav was the chief minister. He also has to answer for his unkept promises about developmental works in the area.
Maharaj, who was defeated in 1989 and 1991 by the Janata Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party respectively, represents the United Front now. Last time he had won the seat on a Congress (Tiwari) ticket, defeating Major General Khandoori. He is now contesting as a Congress (Secular) candidate, and has the advantage of belonging to the Thakur community, which forms 45 per cent of the electorate.
Bahuguna, a former Bombay high court judge, has returned to fight the seat once held by his father. Having to make inroads on a Congress plank in a constituency which has lately been returning BJP or non-Congress candidates is a difficult task. However, he is asking votes in his father's name and not Sonia Gandhi's.
As the candidates has to reach out to the divergent people in the entire constituency covering the remote hill areas of Chamoli and Pauri Garhwal districts as well as the Dehra Dun city, localised issues has taken a backseat. Instead, the contest is focused more around personalities -- both of the contesting candidates and those being projected at the national level. So, while Bahuguna projects Sonia, Major General Khanddori holds aloft the name of Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Major General Khandoori was defeated by a margin of only 15,000 votes in the last election.
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