Almora (Uttarakhand), Apr 9 (PTI) Campaigning for the Salt Assembly bypoll here in Uttarakhand has begun with Congress candidate Ganga Pancholi going door to door for drumming up support for her.
The bypoll to the seat in Almora district slated for April 17 was necessitated after the death of BJP MLA Surendra Singh Jeena, who died of coronavirus late last year.
As the voters have not made up their mind yet, the main players - BJP and Congress - are banking upon their strengths.
While the BJP has fielded Mahesh Jeena, the elder brother of the late MLA, from the seat hoping to cash in upon the sympathy factor, the Congress has made Pancholi its nominee from the seat which she had lost narrowly to the BJP in the last Assembly polls.
Surendra Singh (50) had died of COVID-19 in November last year just a fortnight after the death of his wife due to the pandemic in Delhi.
'We are winning the seat on sympathy wave alone as late Surendra Singh was highly popular among the masses,' in-charge of BJP affairs in Uttarakhand Dushyant Kumar Gautam said.
The Congress, on the other hand, seems to be banking heavily on Pancholi's local appeal.
The party also seems to depend on a possible anti-incumbency against the BJP and the charisma of veteran Congress leader Harish Rawat who hails from Almora and is currently under treatment for COVID-19 at a Delhi hospital.
In an emotional appeal to the voters of the constituency, the former chief minister had recently said it would be like 'death for him' if the Congress candidate lost from the seat.
'We are winning the seat as the BJP candidate has done nothing in the last four years for the people of the constituency,' state Congress in-charge Devendra Yadav said.
But political observers here feel giving the ticket to Pancholi over Vikram Rawat, son of Ranjit Rawat, a two-time MLA from the seat might prove costly for the Congress.
As Ranjit Rawat may make things difficult for the Congress as he is not happy with the party's choice of Pancholi over his son, an observer said.
The Salt assembly seat was won by the Congress in 2002 and 2007 when its candidate Ranjit Singh Rawat won the seat.
The seat was wrested from the Congress by Surendra Singh Jeena in the 2012 and 2017 polls.
'The BJP is fully organised. Our cadre is working day and night to ensure that we retain the seat while the Congress is a divided house. This factor is working in favor of BJP,' Pradesh BJP spokesman Suresh Joshi said.
Salt Assembly seat has a total of 95,241 voters, including 46,549 female voters, while the constituency has a total of 151 polling booths.
In the 2017 Assembly election, 44,044 people turned up to vote out of which the BJP candidate polled a total of 22,581 votes while Congress candidate Pancholi polled 18,677 votes. 'The BJP has brought in a candidate from Delhi, who was never in touch with the locals while I am a local person and have involved with people's problems for years. This factor will work in my favour alone with the blessings of our respected leader Harish Rawat,' said Pancholi, the Congress candidate. PTI CORR ALM HDA