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Shah raps Uttarakhand trio after bypoll loss

Amit Shah at the mobile app launch in New Delhi. (PTI)

New Delhi, July 28: For the BJP, sameeksha (post-mortem) was a word that existed notionally. Every poll verdict, especially a defeat, was followed with the ritualistic promise of doing a sameeksha to pinpoint the fault-lines and, possibly the defaulters, and come up with the correctives. The promise was never implemented.

However, the loss of three Assembly seats in Uttarakhand last week has prompted the BJP’s new president, Amit Shah, to go in for an immediate sameeksha. Questions have been raised on what caused the rout, barely 60 days after the clean sweep of all five Lok Sabha seats in the state.

Shah summoned the state’s three former chief ministers, B.C. Khanduri, Ramesh Pokhriyal “Nishank” and B.C. Koshiyari, to his office this morning. The trio have been at the BJP’s vanguard ever since Uttarakhand was carved out of Uttar Pradesh, and have managed to rotate the chief minister’s post among themselves but for a break when Nityanand Swami was the incumbent.

Sources said Shah conveyed his “displeasure in no uncertain terms” and sought an explanation from Pokhriyal, who had vacated his Doiwali Assembly seat after winning the Lok Sabha polls.

Doiwali was contested by Trivendra Singh Rawat, a BJP national secretary. It seems Pokhriyal had convinced Shah that retaining Doiwali was a “cakewalk”.

Shah had a special interest in Rawat’s win because he had assisted him in Uttar Pradesh during the Lok Sabha polls and had become “close” to the BJP chief. Rawat’s defeat was construed as a personal loss for Shah.

“Because in the end, it is believed that Pokhriyal had worked to ensure his defeat. The reason is complex. Had we won all the three seats, the victory would have jeopardised the Congress government’s survival and placed the BJP in a good position to have a shot at government formation,” a source said.

“Our feedback is that the Congress worked hard on some BJP leaders to ensure that this situation did not arise. Our leaders seemed to have played ball.”

Pokhriyal, Khanduri and Koshiyari would not take calls either on their mobile or landlines.

Uttarakhand was never an easy wicket for the BJP to play its politics. The trio of ex-chief ministers almost always worked to keep the party out of power because of their alleged rivalries. “This time too, the question of who would lead the government was doing the rounds before the by-elections,” a source said.

Pokhriyal, Khanduri and Koshiyari reportedly feared that none would make the cut if the BJP got the numbers as Narendra Modi and Shah could have brought in a “neutral” candidate to minimise infighting. “That would have ended their hegemony,” a source said.

The rout has shocked the BJP, although in absolute terms it means little given the party won all five parliamentary seats from the state and the next Assembly election is due in 2017.

“It raises fundamental questions over the health or lack of health of our state apparatuses and the failure to create new leaders in some states. Shah will have to start addressing these questions,” a source said.

The Pokhriyal-Khanduri-Koshiyari trio are said to be deeply entrenched with their following. “Breaking their stranglehold won’t be easy,” a source admitted.

Shah, who spends his day at the BJP’s national headquarters when in Delhi, this evening launched a mobile application called “Constituency Connect” along with New Delhi MP Meenakshi Lekhi.

The application is expected to facilitate long-distance connectivity between an MP and his/her constituents and has been billed as a “novel means of enhancing a lawmaker’s access”.

Sources said it was likely to be used a great deal in Delhi, which could go for a mid-term poll this year or in early 2015.

The central office has received complaints on how some Delhi MPs, especially first-time lateral entrants like Maheish Giri and Manoj Tiwari, were “unavailable” to constituents in spite of repeatedly being told to tour their areas and speak directly to the people.

Giri, a Maharashtrian, is a devotee of evangelist Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Giri’s candidacy was recommended by him. Tiwari is a Bhojpuri singer and contested the polls reluctantly with little hope of winning. “Win they did but on the back of the Modi wave,” an office-bearer said.