Gen. Khanduri is now a part of the big list of politicians from Uttarakhand whose personality and aspirations has become too big for the region. GB Pant, HN Bahuguna and ND Tiwari who all hailed from Uttarakhand played momentous roles in the national politics . However, unlike the other three, who developed their political careers in Lucknow, BC Khanduri chose Delhi.
Gen Khanduri started his political career inspired by political heavyweight HN Bahuguna, who by end of his life, was totally disenchanted with Congress. Riding on the Ram Lehar and enormous goodwill of the massive number of families sending their sons to Indian army, Gen. Khanduri won his first election from Garhwal in 1991.
His work ethics,integrity and efficiency saw him rise up the echelons of BJP’s parliamentary setup, starting with being Chief Whip for BJP and eventually graduating to become minister of state in NDA government ( AB Vajpayee preferred the veteran Nityanand Swami as the first CM of UK).
Gen Khanduri slowly rose from being a minister of state, to getting independent change of the Ministry of Highway and then went on to become a full fledged cabinet minister. His brilliant stewardship of surface transport ministry established him as one of the most popular ministers of the NDA government. His most enduring legacy was envisaging and developing the Golden quadilateral project covering the entire country.
Why he lost in 2012
Host of factors that played a role in BJP losing out in its effort to retain the state despite a brilliant reguard action mounted by the brave General
1. Anti-corruption zeal – While Gen. Khanduri was busy at the centre, Sangh’s man at helm of UK, Bhagat Singh Koshyari, had lost the assembly election, and a shrewd Congress ‘high command’ had installed a very reluctant ND Tiwari as incharge of UK. What followed was 5 years of listless performance, leaving people in UK totally disenchanted. For all practical purposes, BJP fought the 2007 assembly election leveraging brand khanduri, managing to win 34 seats. Khanduri, managed to form a coalition with UKD and become CM. Unfortunately, his zero tlerance to corruption and strict no- no to patronage dispensation/favouring seekers did no go well with the provincial babus and politicos getting eager to make a quick buck. His detractors in the party began baying for his blood.
2. Delimitation of Lok Sabha seats in 2009 dramatically altered the electoral landscape in UK. Seats swapped their reserved status (Almora replaced Haridwar), thereby leaving already established leader without a constituency. Lt. Gen. TPS Rawat (who Khanduri bought into BJP from Congress as a masterstroke to make space for a assembly seat to fight from) lost against the Godmen Satpal Maharaj. Harish Rawat managed to social engineer his way by co-opting BSP muslim votes in Haridwar. By end of the elections, Congress had won all 5 seats in UK. Gen. Khanduri could certainly not be held responsible for these losses, except for his inability to act against the interest of his cousin Vijay Bahuguna (who won from Tehri, defeating shooting champion Jaspal Rana married to Rajnath Singh’s household). However, the compromised Delhi leadership of the BJP decided to go for the kill and anointed Rajnath Singh’s main man Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ as the CM.
3.Corruption : Nishank had worked with Rajnath Singh in his UP cabinet before. Apart from being a writer, he has significant business interests in several North India states. His appointment was just in time for the biggest financial windfall for the UK government in 12 years : the Haridwar Mahakumb in 2010. The Nishank dispensation left no stones unturned to make money: favorable hydro-electricity project allocation and mining licenses.
4. Gadkari Survey : By 2011 Gen. Khanduri was getting restless, there were rumours of his leaving BJP and taking up leadership of UKD, joined by some of his aides, including Lt. Gen. TPS Rawat. Meanwhile, news came out of a sample survey conducted by Nitin Gadkari, indicating that BJP would not get more than seven seats in the 2012 assembly elections. These two events forced the BJP leadership to appoint Khanduri back as CM. While Khanduri’s charisma held enough power to win BJP more than a few votes, people still had doubt over his removal in 2009 in the first place. Meanwhile Lt. Gen TPS Rawat left BJP as well to form Raksha Morcha, and UKD had a vertical split, 2/3 candidates decided to stay with BJP to form UDK(B), while the other leftist faction decided to go alone as UKD(P).
5. Nishank’s chakravyuh: Delimitation again forced Khanduri to change his assembly seat to Kotdwar. On his part, he thought it prudent to fight his election from the hills, rather than look for a safe seat in Dehradun. He had done his homework by creating a separate Kotdwar district. Meanwhile Nishank conspired with the sitting BJP MLA from Kotdwar, and the Congress opponent, both from the majority caste. The fact that Gen Khanduri would have a tough time in Kotdwar became clear early on, even before the election. Unfortunately, he underestimated cynical politics. The result is now for all to see: He lost election, and Nishank, who shifted base to Dehradun after losing his seat to delimitation won.
6. Delimitations : The 2008 Delimitation shifted the balance of seats in favor of the plain at the cost of hills. While BJP managed to do spectacularly well in Haridwar and Udham Singh Nagar, it failed to wrest atleast two extra seats from Dehradun, simply because of wrong selection, or lack of proper candidates. It is a totally different issue as to who and what circumstances were used to create, remove and reserve these seats. Prima facie, the delimitation has impacted BJP more than Congress.
6. 70 elections : While the people of UK have historically voted to the vibes of national politics, the small assembly segments imply that a dozen villages are capable of deciding the fate of an MLA. Incompetent and non-performing MLAs have been shown the door, irrespective of their affiliation.
If the Gadkari survey has to be given some currency, albeit with a big chunk of salt, it is certainly impressive how Gen Khanduri has managed to steer BJP to the figure of 30 seats. However, the loss of election by both the UKD(B) candidates fighting on BJP symbol, and Khanduri’s own loss sealed the deal for BJP for the near future. It still needs to be seen whether the General has only lost the battle, only to appear stronger for the bigger war, or has been inflicted a fatal wound by his enemies.