Tiwari targets party leadership despite paternity suits and questions over his health

By and

The Congress has been bitten by the BJP bug in Uttarakhand.

The party already had a problem of plenty in terms of chief ministerial aspirants – just like the BJP with its many prime ministerial aspirants – without the 87-year-old N.D. Tiwari doing an L.K. Advani on his beleaguered party.

Sex CDs and paternity suits have clearly not deterred Tiwari to once again stake claim to be appointed CM in the event of the Congress winning the assembly polls.

N.D. Tiwari, right, canvasses for his loyalists in Uttarakhand

N.D.Tiwari, right, canvasses for his loyalists in Uttarakhand

‘Why not if the party wants?’ Tiwari told reporters, returning to Dehradun after a rally in Ramnagar on January 25 where he was campaigning for Satpal Maharaj’s wife, who is contesting the elections.

‘I can be the CM.At least for the first one or two years. If my health permits, I can carry on for five years,’ he added.

His is only the seventh claim for a job that no one will be absolutely certain, at least as of now, is the Congress’s prerogative to offer.There are already six strong contenders for the post.

Congress aspirant Harak Singh Rawat
Congress aspirant Harish Rawat

Challengers: Congress aspirants Harak Singh Rawat, left, and right, Harish Rawat

The strongest is Harish Rawat, party MP from Haridwar and MoS in the ministry of labour and employment.Then there is the firebrand leader of the Opposition in the assembly, Harak Singh Rawat, who assumes he is the CM-in-waiting because of his constitutional status.

State unit chief Yashpal Arya too has his aspirations, owing to the fact that he is Dalit and the changing demography of the state has translated into a disproportionate influence of leaders hailing from the plains of Roorki, Haridwar, Udham Nagar and Terai areas.

Garhwal MP Satpal Maharaj harbours a similar aspiration on account of being the hill strongman. The state campaign panel chairman and the party’s Brahmin face, Vijay Bahuguna, is also a serious candidate.

Satpal Maharaj is also vying for a congress spot
Vijay Bahuguna is also vying for a congress spot

Satpal Maharaj and Vijay Bahuguna, right, are also vying for a congress positions

Tiwari’s former protégé and minister Indira Hridyesh is pushing her own candidature despite having lost last time from Call Girls Haldwani.But they all have a formidable adversary in the form of the former CM who is now aspiring to be the future of the state.

Tiwari’s posturing started soon after he ensured that he had pushed the Congress to give tickets to three of his loyalists – personal assistant Aryendra Sharma from Sehaspur, nephew Manish Tiwari from Gaddarpur and another relative, Nav Prabhat, from Vikasnagar.

The Congress managers thought they had averted a crisis because Tiwari had threatened to form a parallel political outfit through his registered social organisation Nirantar Vikas Simiti (NVS) and field candidates in all 70 constituencies.

Tiwari is the patron of the NVS and his current OSD, Sanjay Joshi, is the general secretary. Following the allotment of tickets to his loyalists by the harassed Congress, the NVS decided against putting up candidates in the polls.

Yashpal Arya is another contender
Indira Hridyesh is another contender

Yashpal Arya, left, and Indira Hridyesh are amongst the  other contenders

But the Congress’s hopes were short-lived.After ensuring that his loyalists got tickets, Tiwari has once again become active in the campaign. He has started canvassing for his loyalists through road shows in Gaddarpur, Ramnagar and Haldwani.

A record crowd was seen in all the three places.People lined up on both sides of the road to get a glimpse of the leader. The stage is set. Tiwari believes infighting among the other CM-hopefuls will ensure he emerges as the ‘consensus candidate’.

In any case, none of the others have the kind of profile the old war horse does – former CM of UP, Uttarakhand and Union minister.The sex CDs and paternity suits, an insider said, only add to the ‘glamour’ of the octogenarian.

Daggers drawn in battlefield of Punjab

Punjab’s Mahabharata, where family fights family and brother wars withbrother, looks set to be a fight to the finish.

Sukhbir Badal says proudly he loves a battle and “fights from the front”.

The field also includes daughters-in-law and the maharani wife of Amarinder Singh.

Traditionally, Punjab has seen a twoway contest, but 2012 is different.Thestate now has a Third Front, headed by Manpreet Badal, nephew of CM Parkash Badal, who resigned from the state government as finance minister and changed the bipolar nature of the polls.

Poll pourri

Manpreet is quite different from his uncle — he wades through the crowd,shaking hands with the surprised people.

In contrast to Sukhbir and Amarinder, who drive up to the stage, he sits at the edge of the stage and not on a chair.

The Akalis’ calculations went for a toss when the CM’s brother Gurdas and his son parted ways with the SAD and set up the People’s Party of Punjab.

‘People are fed up with the monopoly of the two-party system,’ proclaims Manpreet.He’s not just inflicting pain on the Badals, his Sanjha Morcha, an alliance with the Left, is also making the Congress sweat.

Poll pourri

The most intense feud is in the CM’s constituency of Lambi.For Parkash, ithas become the fortress that must not fall, and to ensure this, he is glued there.

In Lambi, he is ranged against Gurdas. With Gurdas out, the burden of a second chance at the hustings rests on the shoulders of deputy CM Sukhbir.

Punjab has never given any government a second consecutive chance and so Sukhbir proclaims as he travels what he thinks are his government’s achievements.

Manpreet says he’s ready to take on his cousin. His PPP has over 50 greenhorns and he admits he need not have started a new party.

‘The Congress would have given an arm and a leg to have me, but Ichose to walk alone.’

Apart from the feuding Badals, there is Amarinder, who is clearly a man in a hurry.The Congress was late in fielding its candidates and the chopper has become his favourite campaign vehicle.

Sukhbir is quick to convert this into an issue and tries to regale crowds with stories of how Amarinder cancels his rally if the weather doesn’t permit him to fly.

His quips apart, the Captain is drawing flak from everywhere for not being connected to the ground reality or people.

He swoops down from the skies and, when he starts to speak, one thing stands out clear: development is the vote-catcher and if Sukhbir is talking of airports, Amarinder holds out the sops.

And of course, in Punjab, if all temptations fail, there is the Dera Sacha Sauda, a religious sect with a large following which the Congress is trying to woo.

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