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Champawat bypoll: Fate of Pushkar Singh Dhami as Uttarakhand CM to be decided tomorrow

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Dehradun, May 30: Bypoll for the Champawat assembly seat in Uttarakhand will be held on Tuesday deciding the fate of four candidates, including Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami's, whose continuance in office depends on its result.

Although he steered the party to a big victory in Uttarakhand assembly polls in February, Dhami had lost from Khatima - a seat he had won twice since 2012.

Champawat bypoll: Fate of Pushkar Singh Dhami as Uttarakhand CM to be decided tomorrow

His defeat was attributed by political analysts to his inability to focus on his own constituency, as he was preoccupied with the party's overall performance as its chief ministerial face.

Dhami must win from Champawat to make it to the state assembly as an MLA - a constitutional requirement for him to remain a CM. The seat had gone to the BJP in the state assembly polls.

When the party made him chief minister once again despite his loss, Champawat's sitting MLA Kailash Gehtori was the first to offer to vacate his seat for him. Keeping his word, he resigned as an MLA from Champawat on April 21 to pave the way for the chief minister to make a fresh bid for the state assembly.

The BJP, which won the state polls for a second term in a row with a two-thirds majority, is sure of Dhami's victory with a record margin.

Its optimism is hinged on the young chief minister's popularity, as well as the past trend, according to which chief ministers in Uttarakhand have never lost a bypoll.

Former chief minister ND Tiwari, for instance, had won comfortably from Ramnagar in a bypoll in 2002.

Bhuwan Chandra Khanduri had won it from Dhumakot in 2007, Vijay Bahuguna from Sitarganj in 2012, and Harish Rawat from Dharchula in 2014.

"The Chief Minister is sure to win by a historic margin. The Congress is nowhere in contest. It is going to be a one-sided affair. People are going to vote for development and the young and dynamic leadership of Dhami," Pradesh BJP vice president Devendra Bhasin said.

"We are confident of a big victory in Champawat. Congress will lose its deposits," Pradesh BJP spokesman Shadab Shams, who offered a Chadar in Piran Kaliyar Sharief praying for Dhami's victory, told PTI.

"People in Champawat are wise enough to understand that the bypoll is for the election of a chief minister, not only an MLA," he said.

Though starting with an advantage, Dhami reportedly worked very hard during campaigning in Champawat, holding a slew of public meetings and road shows along with Gehtori.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath was the most prominent among the party's star campaigners to canvass for Dhami. Yogi had held a road show and addressed a public meeting in Tanakpur with Dhami sharing the stage.

He appealed to voters in Champawat to vote overwhelmingly for Dhami, who is still relatively younger at 46 among his other state counterparts.

Yogi asked the public to see the bypoll as an opportunity to elect a CM, not just an MLA.

"Don't waste this chance of electing a CM who has come to the people of Champawat for the first time after it became a district in 1997," he had said.

Congress' lack of enthusiasm during campaigning has been evident with no big leader of the party canvassing for the party candidate, except Harish Rawat, who is optimistic about the party giving a tough fight to Dhami.

Dhami is pitted against Congress' former district president Nirmala Gehtori in a straight contest. Two others in the fray are Samajwadi Party's Manoj Kumar Bhatt and Independent candidate Himashu Gadkoti.

A total of 96,213 voters will cast their votes in the bypoll scheduled to begin at 8 am on Tuesday.

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