Proving his detractors wrong about the possibility of a close contest, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Shri B.C. Khanduri won the Dhumakot assembly by-poll with a comfortable margin from his nearest Congress rival on September 2. He secured 22,708 of the total 32,093 valid votes polled while the Congress candidate Surendra Singh Negi managed to secure only 8,537 votes. The margin of Shri Khanduri'svictory was over 14,000 votes. Independent candidate Manish Sunderiyal received 848 votes. A total of 32,277 votes were cast in the bye-election, which was held on August 29.
The BJP workers celebrated the Chief Minister'svictory by bursting crackers and distributing sweets at the party headquarters in Dehradun and also at Dhumakot. Shri Khanduri addressed a rally at Dhumakot and thanked the people for giving him a resounding victory. Visibly overwhelmed by the victory, Shri Khanduri said it was the recognition of the good initiatives of his government and also a challenge to perform as a real developer of Uttarakhand. ?My principles are clear and transparent. We have to collectively and with dedication work for the all-round development of the people and this can be achieved only by further improving the infrastructure for education, health, agriculture, tourism connectivity through roads and air. Along with this the industries have to grow and I welcome investors to the state with open arms, and those venturing into the remote hills with need based units will be accorded greater facilities?, the Chief Minister told Organiser in Dehradun. The party will continue with the coalition partners?Uttarakhand Kranti Dal and Independents despite attaining a clear majority with 36 members in a house of 70, Shri Khanduri added.
With this victory, the BJP touched the majority mark of 36 MLAs in the 70-member house in Uttarakhand. It has also got the support of the three-member Uttarakhand Kranti Dal as well as three independent MLAs.
Contrary to speculations about a neck and neck fight, Shri Khanduri left Negi far behind from the first round of counting itself and by the end of the fourth round the margin between the two was over 8,000 votes. Besides strengthening his control over the government and silencing his detractors, the win also defeated Congress attempts at dividing voters in the remote constituency in Pauri district on caste lines. In an attempt to woo the nearly 50 per cent Thakur voters, Congress had nominated Negi, a member from the same community, against Khanduri, a Brahmin. But the ploy didn'thave any impact on the expected outcome.
In order to blunt the Congress attempt, the BJP had stressed on the need to elect a Chief Minister from Garhwal this time around as both Shri Khanduri'spredecessors?Congress'sN.D. Tewari and BJP'sBhagat Singh Koshyari?were from Kumaon. ?Significantly our strategy worked and voters voted for development and change. Despite electing a Thakur candidate from Congress during the two pervious polls, this time the voters backed Khanduri,? said a senior BJP leader. The by-election to the Dhumakot seat was necessitated after former Congress minister and sitting MLA, T.P.S. Rawat vacated the seat in favour of Shri Khanduri and joined the ruling BJP a few months ago. The former Excise and Tourism Minister in the previous N.D. Tewari government was unhappy with the Congress high command after being sidelined for the post of Leader of Opposition. ?We accept the verdict humbly. It was a tough fight but the Chief Minister'swin would be associated with the stigma of misuse of government machinery by the BJP,? said Congress chief spokesperson Surender Kumar. It is expected that after the win, the Chief Minister would carry out major reshuffle in the administrative and police set-up and also reallocate some of the 36 ministries that he is controlling at present among some of his cabinet colleagues. It is also speculated that in order to placate those MLAs and leaders who were not accommodated in the ministry would be made heads of various government-run corporations and boards.
While campaigning, both Khanduri and T.P.S. Rawat impressed upon the voters that backward Dhumakot would be transformed into a ?model constituency?. Dhumakot has now become a VIP constituency.