The sudden removal of veteran BJP leader BC Khanduri from the parliamentary committee on defence is “symptomatic” of the way the party’s government at the Centre functions, his son Manish Khanduri, who makes his electoral debut as the Congresss Pauri Lok Sabha seat candidate, said on April 3. BC Khanduri, a former Uttarakhand chief minister and retired army general, was removed as the panel’s chairman last year.
Manish has made his fathers “unceremonious” removal from the panel a major poll issue and said the action was “humiliation” for a leader who still serves the BJP. “My father had made an objective evaluation of the country’s defence preparedness and came up with suggestions which could improve the situation. However, the government did not just choose to ignore his suggestions but also removed him from the committee. This is symptomatic of the way this (BJP) government functions. The action shows its intolerance to critical appraisal,” Manish told PTI in an interview.
Pauri, along with the four other Lok Sabha seats in Uttarakhand, goes to polls on April 11. The Congress has pitted Manish against BJPs Tirath Singh Rawat from the seat.
On his father never complaining about his removal from the panel, Manish said,”He is an army man and a man from the hills. He will not say anything. He will just salute and go. But, being his son, I know how he had felt after he was ousted from the committee.”
Manish is latching on to the emotive issue at his election rallies in his constituency to dig into the loyal support base of his father, who is the sitting BJP MP from Pauri. Khanduri, along with several other veteran BJP leaders, including LK Advani, was dropped from their parliamentary seat this time by the party. It seemed that the BJPs decision had come as it wanted to ease out several of its old guards from electoral politics after keeping them out of government by introducing an age bar of 75 years.
“I have seen tears in his (Khanduris) eyes only twice in my life. Once when his daughter left for her in-laws place after marriage and the other time when he was removed from the parliamentary committee,” Manish told a rally recently.
Manish, who was a journalist with a leading English daily for eight years before joining Facebook as the head of its news partnerships in India, said this election was an “ideological fight” for him. When asked whether his “disillusionment” with the BJP government’s policies prompted him to join the Congress, Manish evaded the question. He said though his father was in the BJP, the Congress philosophy of “inclusive development” always appealed to him.
On what motivated him to leave his cushy job and join the rough and tumble of politics he said, “I am not here to do politics. I am here to work to make a difference. I have always felt that people from different walks of life should bring their experience to politics to serve people.”
If elected, Manish said he would work for creation of better educational facilities and employment avenues in his constituency, besides making an effort to stop migration from the hills. “There is despair among the youth. There are no jobs. An institution like NIT had to shift out of the state due to the absence of basic infrastructure. Addressing problems like these obviously will be on top of my priority list,” he said.
When told that his rival from BJP, Rawat, had claimed that he has his mentor BC Khanduris blessings with him, the Congress debutante said people are free to make claims. “Being his son I know I have his blessings,” Manish said.
Rawat on April 2 claimed he was the true heir to the political legacy of BC Khanduri and that the leader was his mentor. With both son and disciple delving into BC Khanduris loyal support base to outdo each other and the BJP veteran is maintaining an objective silence, with all attention is riveted on the seat to see which of the two will finally reap the advantage of his legacy. Pauri, also known as Garhwal Lok Sabha constituency, was represented by BC Khanduri in the 16th Lok Sabha.