Rebels in Uttarakhand elections

Mriganka M Bhowmick

Amidst speculations over the probable outcome of Assembly election in Uttarakhand, BJP and Congress are still groping in the dark- barely two days left for the poll- with the voters keeping them guessing.   The political, social and media circles are abuzz with wild conjectures over “who will have the extra edge”. This implies that no party is confident enough about its chance to form the new government.
The entire state is witnessing a fight between Congress Chief Minister Harish Rawat‘s one- man show and the State BJP dependent on Modi Magic. It is pertinent to mention that there is no visible Chief Ministerial figure emerging from BJP camp. The party’s internal politics has become murkier due to the ‘faulty’ ticket distribution process and the importance given to the rebel Congress leaders inducted in BJP over the past one year.
The faction of dissident Congressmen led by the ex- Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna is able to create a space inside BJP and emerged as a strong pressure group after induction of Yashpal Arya and others in the recent past. This put the old horses of BJP men in a tizzy, as they have been made to contemplate on their future prospects if BJP comes to power. This internal unrest is holding back the BJP leaders from infusing what is called the killer instinct in the poll campaign. Presently, they are more on the stage manager’s role rather fighting it out on the ground.
On the other hand, Rawat is emboldened by the shadow support from independent candidates who are expected to hold the key of the formation of new government, given the possibility of the election throwing up a hung house. Further, the absence of the rebel group in the party paves the path clear for Rawat to become the undisputed face of the Congress. Rawat is burning his mid night oil to ensure a good result in the Garhwal region, addressing six to eight rallies a day whereas he has a visible edge over Kumaun region where he hails from.
Political observers are of the opinion that Harish Rawat is concentrating on 32 to 34 seats specifically. However, being a crafty politician, well-acquainted with the twists and turns of the treacherous electoral terrain of the Himalayan state, he is keen to win the confidence of independents and possible allies to keep the central leadership’s pressure at bay.
While Harish Rawat is projecting himself as “Son of the Soil”, BJP seems to suffer from the problem of plenty with multiple faces -- Koshiyari, Nishank, Prakash Pant, Satpal Maharaj and Vijay Bahuguna-vying for supremacy. For the saffron camp, coordination is important to create a massive impact on the poll by adding up their individual strengths.
There is a psychological factor for BJP to sail through every election riding on the crest of the Modi Magic, something which is hindering the process of creating a local appeal through the state leaders. The same happened previously in the elections of Delhi and Bihar with disastrous results in both.
In Uttarakhand, the BJP has got one strong election issue-surgical strike by the Indian army on terrorist camps on the side of Pakistan border. In this hilly state, most of the families have someone in the Indian army and that way Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision on surgical strike, has many takers. The local BJP leaders have been campaigning on this issue and that has been able to make some positive impact to combat the aggressive campaign of Mr. Harish Rawat. Since there is no local CM face on behalf of BJP, all focus is on Narendra Modi who has earned appreciation for his surgical strike action.
However, the Uttarakhand Congress leaders are making use of the demonetisation issue as a campaign point since in the rural and hilly areas, this created lot of problems and many farmers had to face hardships as a result of the shortage of cash. The situation is now better but the strains are there on the informal sector and many small units have been affected in the state leading to partial joblessness. The BJP leaders have to reply to the embarrassing questions on demonetisation.
In the final analysis, it is a fight between the Congress of Harish Rawat and the BJP led by Narendra Modi. Modi is the BJP candidate and it is to be seen whether his charisma as was evident at the 2014 Lok Sabha elections is still intact and is able to navigate the beleaguered BJP into electoral victory by unseating the Congress. (IPA)

Sunday, 12 February, 2017