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Uttarakhand: Sonia pulls up N D Tiwari
Onkar Singh in Rudrapur | February 18, 2007 15:08 IST
Sonia Gandhi told Narain Dutt Tiwari, chief minister of Uttarakhand, to be more visible in the party's campaign and not give the excuse that he is too old to take part in the politics.
Sonia was upset with the split in the party top leadership at a time when the Congress was trying to strengthen its position in the state, particularly after the news that Congress may lose to Akalis in Punjab.
Sonia also pulled up Harish Rawat, who is staking his claim on the chief ministership in case Congress wins the elections, and asked him to sort out his differences with Tiwari and work in tandem with him.
Tiwari, who has his eyes set on the Congress nomination for the post of President of India, has announced that he would not contest the polls, well before the Election Commission announced the poll dates.
Sonia asked the ageing Congress leader to take charge of the state in the last phase of the campaign and improve the party prospects and also sort out the problem of rebels who have jumped into the electoral battle after they were denied tickets by the party high command.
The party has taken action against as many as 32 Congress leaders who had filed their nominations more to act as spoilers than win seats, at the behest of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which was not willing to accomodate them either.
The Brahmins, who were solidly behind the Congress party because of Tiwari being a Brahmin, feel that if person like Harish Rawat was handed over the charge of the party, they would have nothing to gain by supporting the Congress in the Assembly polls. At least five seats, Nainital, Rudrapur, Kashipur, Ranikhet and Almora have sizeable Brahmin voters. Tiwari wants to make Indira Haridesh his successor.
Sonia and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressed a series of meetings in the state to boost the dwindling morale of the Congress nominees, which goes to polls on Feburary 21.
Both leaders have been emphasising on rechristening the state from Uttaranchal to Uttarakhand -- which was the original demand of the people of the state.
But there are many die hard Congressmen who would not like to change their loyality for anything.
Twenty-eight-year-old Varinder Singh, who runs a chemist's shop in Khatima Assembly segment, had a nice experience during the Congress tenure.
"I practise Karate and twice the state government helped me to travel abroad and take part in international tournaments. They helped me in organising a Karate championship in the state where Karate players from all over India came and participated. So why should I not vote for Congress?" he asks boldly.
BJP too has its own share of worries as some of the leading party leaders who were denied party nominations have filed their candidatures.
"We have just two or three rebels in the fray and they would not make much of a difference," BJP president Rajnath Singh said in an informal conversation with this correspondent in Khatima.
The party has asked second-rung party leaders like Sushma Swaraj, Navjot Singh Sidhu and Shatrughan Sinha to spend the last couple of days in Nainital and other key regions of Kumaon.
Sidhu would be focusing on the Tarai region, which has sizeable population of Sikh voters, and try to swing them to the BJP fold with his power of oration and skill to strike a rapport with his audience.
Hema Malini would also be making appearances at some of the key places where BJP is not doing so well.
Samajwadi Party has decided to field actress Jaya Prada along with Amar Singh to canvass for the party on Sunday and make further dent into the dwindling hold of the Congress party in the state.