The BJP won the Lohaghat seat in Uttarakhand as the results were announced on Wednesday after a repoll was held over one poll booth. With this BJP’s tally goes up to 57 in the 70-member House.The Election Commission ordered a repoll in the Karnkarayat poll booth of the Lohaghat seat due to an electronic voting machine (EVM) malfunction.According to the EC, BJP candidate Puran Singh Fartyal won the seat on Wednesday, defeating his Congress rival by 834 votes.The Congress has 11 seats and independents two in the Assembly.The Congress is yet to decide on its Legislature Party Leader after the outgoing Chief Minister Harish Rawat lost both Hardwar Rural and Kichha seats.In the BJP, however, the current challenge is that of deciding a Chief Minister. According to highly-placed sources in the BJP, three names — Chaubattakhal MLA Satpal Maharaj, Pithoragarh MLA Prakash Pant, and Doiwala Trivendra Singh Rawat — are being considered by the party’s central leadership. A decision would be announced within a day or two, party sources said.
The Congress decision to field Navinchandra Bandiwadekar from Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg constituency has come in for criticism after his photographs on the dais of right-wing group Sanatan Sanstha and his participation in the rally organised to support Vaibhav Raut, a go-rakshak from Nallasopara arrested for possessing arms, became public. Following the outrage on Twitter, sources in the Congress said the matter has been brought to the notice of the senior leadership and appropriate action will be taken. Mr. Bandiwadekar, president of the All India Bhandari Samaj Mahasangh, had participated in a rally to support Mr. Raut as he was a worker of the Mahasangh from Nallasopara. “I have no relationship with Sanatan Sanstha. I was there as Raut used to work for the community and I was told his wife and mother were treated badly by police. I do not support the ideology of Sanatan Sanstha,” he said. Maharashtra Congress president Ashok Chavan said the party was aware of reports regarding Mr. Bandiwadekar. “The Congress is against extremist organisations like Sanatan Sanstha. An appropriate decision will be taken after a detailed inquiry,” he said. In August last year, the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad raided Mr. Raut’s home and confiscated arms and ammunition. He was a member of the Bhandari community and co-founder of the Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti, which is said to be affiliated to Hindu Janjagruti Samiti, an offshoot of Sanatan Sanstha. The Sanstha’s members have been named in the murders of rationalist Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, Communist leader Govind Pansare, author M.M. Kalburgi and journalist Gauri Lankesh.Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant issued a statement clarifying Mr. Bandiwadekar has no connection whatsoever with the Sanatan Sanstha. “Neither has he participated in the activities of the Sanatan Sanstha nor does he have any sympathy for it. Since there was pressure from the community considering rumours of presumbaly prejudiced action by police, he had to go as the president of the organisation,” said Mr. Sawant. He said Mr. Bandiwadekar strongly opposes the Sanstha’s ideology and followers and will continue to do so.