The entry of Manish Khanduri, son of Lok Sabha member Major General (Retired) Bhuwan Chandra Khanduri, into Congress has caused much panic in Bharatiya Janata Party which appears to be in a tizzy in search of a suitable candidate with defence services background who can match the scion of the general with a clean image.
Speculation hovers around the names of retired colonel Ajay Kothiyal, who had done commendable work in the rebuilding of Kedarnath after the devastating flash floods, and retired rear admiral OPS Rana, who is member of the BJP’s think-tank.
The name of Shaurya Doval, the son of national security advisor Ajit Doval, is also doing rounds in political circles as a possible candidate from Pauri Garhwal parliamentary constituency from where Manish Khanduri is likely to be the Congress nominee.
Shaurya Doval has been desperately trying to establish a connect with the people for the last one year through his ‘Bemisal Garhwal’ campaign. However, none of these can match the popularity of General Khanduri in Pauri.
The Pauri Garhwal parliamentary constituency, predominantly inhabited by former members of the armed forces, is considered a BJP citadel. The families of serving and retired members of the armed forces are said to be part of BJP’s vote-bank.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Rawat, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath, army chief general Bipin Rawat, NSA chief Ajit Doval and chief of RAW Anil Dhasmana all belong to Pauri Garhwal. The premier Hindu pilgrimage centre of Kedarnath is also in the same district.
However, BJP appears to be apprehensive of a counter offensive from Manish Khanduri whose father major general was removed by the BJP as the chairman of the standing committee on defence after he raised questions on the Modi government’s defence preparedness.
By cleverly linking old BJP slogan of “Khanduri, Jaroori” with Manish, Congress hopes to garner support of the voters underlining the clean track record of senior Khanduri
Manish Khanduri’s joining the party has infused new life in Congress which passed through the worse period in 2016 after several of its senior leaders quit the party and joined the BJP. In a predominantly Hindu upper caste region, Congress hopes to attract not only the Brahmins but also other elite sections. Congress hopes to attract young voters also because Manish have had higher education.
By cleverly linking old BJP slogan of “Khanduri, Jaroori” with Manish, Congress hopes to garner support of the voters underlining the clean track record of senior Khanduri.
The nomination of senior BJP leader Teerath Singh Rawat to contest the seat was almost finalized before Manish Khanduri entered the fray. Incidentally, Rawat considers general B C Khanduri as his political mentor. Rawat’s rise in politics has been under the wings of general Khanduri. According to political observers, Rawat’s loyalty to his mentor’s son is likely to be more than his party loyalty.
A graduate from Kellogg School of Management, Manish Khanduri has worked on senior positions with CNN and other online, mobile, TV and print media. He has also managed all the election campaigns of his father.
Manish has entered politics with blessings of his father but by saying that there can be different political views in a family the chance of the father campaigning openly for the son appears doubtful.