As the BJP tries to cash in on the image of Chief Minister B C Khanduri with its slogan 'Khanduri hai zaroori' (Khanduri is essential) in the upcoming Assembly polls in Uttarakhand, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, who was at the helm not long ago, is locked in a tight fight in this constituency.
The blow of having been removed from the chief minister's post by his own party coupled with the fact that he is contesting from Doiwala for the first time, that too against an experienced opponent, means that this battle has the makings of a cliffhanger.
There are over 20 candidates in the fray from Doiwala, a small town about 20 kms from the state capital Dehradun, but Nishank's prime opponent is veteran Congress leader and former minister Hira Singh Bisht.
"The BJP has always done well here. The past two elections saw the victory of Trivendra Singh Rawat, who is now contesting from Raipur. Besides, Nishank ji has been the CM of the state, so his stature is taller than others," Ghanshyam Singh Kushwaha, a BJP leader, said.
However, his stature has been questioned by Congress leaders who called him "inefficient".
"He was the Chief Minister but he does not have much to tell the people of the constituency about what he did as CM which improved their lives. And if you were an efficient CM why did your party remove you from the post," Bisht, who was himself a minister in N D Tiwari Cabinet, said.
"And does it behove a CM to go from meeting to meeting seeking votes in only his own constituency like any other MLA. Stature worthy of a CM would have been if people in several constituencies want to vote for you," he said.
Nishank was removed from the CM's post in September last year in an apparent move by BJP to lift its sagging image following graft allegations against the state government.
Bisht also attacks Nishank terming him an "outsider". The former Chief Minister had represented Thalisainin seat in the last Assembly election, while Bisht has represented the Doiwala area before.
Though the Congress attacks are unrelenting, Nishank has prepared his defence.
"I have served the area as the Chief Minister and the people of the area know my work. People have benefited from our government's plan like the idea of running the number 108 vans. These vans rush to all distress calls and have saved people's lives," Nishank told PTI.
Dismissing the 'outsider' tag, he said he is now a resident of the neighbouring Dehradun and knows Doiwala as well as anybody else in the area.
Besides the fact that BJP has traditionally done well in Doiwala, the presence of Congress rebel S P Singh in the fray could help Nishank win the seat. Another candidate Jasbir Singh Negi is also expected to garner a sizeable share of votes, though not many consider him a winning candidate.
The constituency consists of semi-urban and rural areas where over one lakh voters, an even mix of farmers, service class and small shopkeepers would vote at 137 polling booths.
As the big names clash, voters try to make up their minds. "Even when parties announce schemes, they work only for the first few days. It is not easy to decide which candidate would work better. Though BJP is strong here, the image of Nishank has taken a beating because of the talk about corruption.
Nishank Faces Tough Fight Against Cong's Bisht in Polls
Amandeep Shukla/Doiwala (U'khand)
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