C. K. Chandramohan

DEHRA DUN: The Samajwadi Party hopes to be the kingmaker in the event of none of the major parties - the ruling Congress or the BJP -- getting a clear majority in the upcoming Uttarakhand Assembly elections.

Asserting that the party is poised to share power with like-minded forces, senior Samajwadi leader Rama Shankar Kaushik says the people are disillusioned with the Congress and the BJP and are looking for a change. The party is contesting 58 out of the 70 seats at stake in the elections.

Releasing the party's election manifesto, Mr. Kaushik said the party was confident of good support as it was the one that had initiated formation of Uttarakhand by passing resolutions in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly and setting up a high-power committee for the purpose.

Although the manifesto promises relief to the masses in all fields, it also promises to take Hardwar back to UP in the same breath. This, observers feel, has been done since the party supremo and UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav -- who is hated by the hill people for brutal atrocities on Uttarakhand agitators when he was Chief Minister in the early 1990s -- managed to win the Hardwar Parliamentary seat in the last elections by making that promise. The party drew a blank in the last Assembly elections.

The manifesto also promises an unemployment stipend to all as in UP and introduction of a "Kanyadhan" programme for girls. "We will use our clout as a ruling partner or opposition to evolve a model of optimum development by intermixing agriculture, poverty alleviation, education, health and industrial growth,'' said Mr. Kaushik.

State party president Ambrish Kumar and general secretary Vinod Barthwal, however, parried questions about their contradictory statements on Hardwar over the years. While Mr. Kumar champions the cause of taking Hardwar back to UP, Mr. Barthwal has worked overtime to establish that the holy city is an integral part of Uttarakhand.