Lok Sabha Elections 2019: BJP leader BC Khanduri’s son likely to join Congress

Manish Khanduri, son of former Uttarakhand chief minister and BJP leader Maj Gen (retd) BC Khanduri, is likely to join the Congress soon, party leaders said, even as Manish refused to comment regarding his joining the grand old party.

Congress leaders said Manish would be joining the party in the presence of national president Rahul Gandhi on March 16.

When contacted, Manish said, “I do not want to comment on this issue.” His father BC Khanduri also refused to comment.

Manish’s sister Ritu Khanduri is a BJP legislator from Yamkeshwar seat that falls in Pauri Lok Sabha constituency, the family bastion. She won with a margin of over 20,000 votes.

When asked about Manish joining the Congress, BJP Uttarakhand president Ajay Bhatt said, “No BJP leader is joining the Congress. Manish is not member of the BJP.”

Congress leaders said Manish is likely to be fielded from Pauri Lok Sabha constituency, from where his father is the sitting BJP MP. If the BJP sticks to its announcement that all the five sitting MPs from the state will be renominated for 2019 Lok Sabha elections, then it could be a father-son contest in Pauri. However, there could be some other contenders in the BJP for the Pauri seat such as Col (retd) Ajay Kothiyal, head of National Institute of Mountaineering (NIM) in Uttarkashi, who recently met senior BJP leaders.

Thawar Chand Gehlot, state in-charge for the Lok Sabha elections and Union cabinet minister, had said, “The key to getting ticket is winnability.”

In an interview to HT on Thursday, he said he came to know through social media about the reports that Khanduri’s son might join the Congress. “Personally, I have no information regarding that. All I know is that neither has he any orientation towards social and political causes nor is he a member of our party,” Gehlot said referring to Manish.

He said Khanduri’s son had no big political stature except that he is the son of the veteran BJP leader. “Khanduri ji and I have discussed this issue. He told me that he had nothing to do with him (Manish) and that they seldom spoke to each other,” Gehlot said. He said the former chief minister told him that he was a loyal soldier of the party (BJP) and would also remain so in the future. “Khanduri ji also told me that would not only abide by the party’s instructions but would also stand solidly behind it as it had given him a lot,” Gehlot said.

“Yes, we can assume so,” he said when asked if the former chief minister (Khanduri) meant that he was ready to re-contest from the Pauri Lok Sabha seat. “He (Khanduri) also told me that he would work for the party even if he was not given ticket for the Lok Sabha polls,” Gehlot said.

The political buzz about Khanduri’s son joining the Congress was set off after Leader of the Opposition in the assembly Indira Hridayesh revealed during a recent media interaction that some “big shot” from the BJP might join the Congress.

In an interview with HT on Thursday, she said she named neither the individual likely to join the Congress nor did she mention the place where the new entrant would join the party. “How do I tell you? Only our party chief can tell that, if he wishes so,” she said when asked if she was referring to Manish when she said some BJP leader might join the Congress. “I can’t comment on how it would benefit the party (electorally) right now; we will let you know when the process of joining would complete,” Hridayesh said.

Ever since she broke the news, media is abuzz with reports that Manish might join the Congress at a political rally to be addressed by Rahul Gandhi in Dehradun on March 16. “I never said that. All I stated that some leader from the BJP might join our party,” Hridayesh clarified, adding that all such talks were happening at the level of the party high command. “It is possible that the person concerned may have joined our party by now, or he might join it in Delhi after Rahulji would return after attending the proposed rally in Dehradun,” she said adding an element of mystery to the issue.

“Why would you want to speak to me?…I am not joining the Congress. Please speak to him (Manish),” BJP MLA from Yamkeshwar Ritu Khanduri, who is the sister of Manish, said when asked about the reports that the latter might join the Congress. Khanduri, however, couldn’t be reached for his comments despite several attempts.

BJP insiders claim that the party wasn’t keen on launching new faces for the election as a result of which it is likely to repeat its sitting MPs.

First Published:
Mar 15, 2019 16:03 IST

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