The comprehensive loss of its candidate Ganga Pancholi in the Salt assembly by- election has come as a setback for the Uttarakhand unit of Congress party which is bracing itself up for the crucial assembly elections slated early next year. Riding on an emotional wave and supported by a strong organisational setup the ruling BJP candidate Mahesh Jeena romped home in the by -election with a comfortable 4,697 vote victory over the Congress candidate. When the BJP offered the party ticket to the brother of late Surendra Singh Jeena in the by- election it was clear that it wanted to garner the sympathy of the electorate by revoking the memory of the late Jeena who was a popular face in the area. The saffron party had successfully played the emotional card in Tharali and Pithoragarh by -elections and it has repeated it in Salt. The Congress on other hand knew about the sympathy factor and the fact that the electorate in the by-elections generally vote for the ruling dispensation but it hoped to garner anti incumbency votes in the election. Entire unit of the Uttarakhand Congress had thrown its full weight in Salt. Former chief minister and general secretary of All India Congress Committee (AICC) Harish Rawat who was instrumental in giving party ticket to Pancholi at the cost his aide turned bête noire Ranjit Rawat had made the election as an issue of his prestige. He had even released video messages from a hospital in Delhi where he was admitted after getting infected with Covid-19 in which he had appealed to the people of Salt for Ganga. On the last day of campaigning Rawat ignored the advice of doctors and campaigned in the area. Apart from Rawat, the in charge of the Uttarakhand Congress Devendra Yadav, Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president Pritam Singh and other senior leaders camped for days in Salt. In fact the whole campaigning was directly monitored by Yadav himself and the party leaders and workers were successful in generating a positive environment for its candidate. The BJP on the other hand had thrown its entire machinery and had deputed many ministers to ensure success of its candidate. The chief minister Tirath Singh Rawat former CM Trivendra Singh Rawat and the president of Uttarakhand BJP Madan Kaushik too threw their all might for the success of Jeena.
“Though the win of the BJP candidate was expected, the loss in the by- election should make the Congress sit and ponder. Congress had thrown its full might in the election but it could ensure a close fight. The party should revise its strategy for the assembly elections which are near,’’ said Suren Rawat, a political analyst.
The observers also opine that the infighting in the faction ridden state unit would further escalate in the coming days. The party is clearly divided into two major camps headed by Harish Rawat and PCC chief Pritam Singh in Uttarakhand and with assembly elections drawing close the infighting could escalate over the control of the party and leadership issue.