C. K. Chandramohan

DEHRA DUN: Rebels and the presence of nearly a dozen new outfits such as Gorkha Democratic Front, Maidani Kranti Dal and Uma Bharti's Bharatiya Jan Shakti Party have added to the pre-poll excitement in Uttarakhand.

The smaller outfits openly admit that they are not keen on winning but damaging the prospects of the Congress or the BJP as both had failed the common man. Even a few votes can make a difference in the small Assembly constituencies of the hill State. The GDF draws its support from the Gorkha population spread over pockets of Dehra Dun and nearby areas. The party, led by people who have not been in active politics till recently, feels that the Congress, which has enjoyed patronage of the Gorkhas till now, may find it difficult to woo this community as they have been given an ethnic alternative.

"We will support the Congress in its attempts to form the Government as it is the only secular and development-oriented party," said GDF chief Surya Vikram Shahi, adding that they planned to contest about 20 seats.

The BJP seems to be in for some damage from the Bharatiya Jan Shkati Party that has put up candidates for all the 70 seats and Ms. Uma Bharti is going round the State dubbing the BJP as a corrupt and communal force. "We promise Ram and roti if voted to power," she told reporters in Haldwani.

The MKD is trying to woo voters in the plains of Hardwar, Dehra Dun, Naini Tal and Udham Singh Nagar.

Nearly a dozen Congress leaders have quit the party to contest the polls from other parties.

The UKD has also fielded the erstwhile BJP State Disciplinary Committee chief Matwar Singh Rana from Tehri.

"The presence of rebels as candidates from other parties or the smaller outfits will not make much of a difference as the people are aware of their intentions. ," said Information and PWD Minister Indira Hirdeyesh who is seeking another term from Haldwani.