The small hill state of Uttrakhand may not reverberate much politically in the national sphere. However, the coming assembly elections in the state are a high stake battle for the Congress and the BJP. Among the five states that are going to polls, only reflects direct fight between both the parties for 70 seat assembly. The poll is slated for 15 February.
In 2013, Bahuguna’s inept handling of rehabilitation work during Kedarnath calamity faced fierce criticism that had to make way for Rawat to take over in February 2014. But this step also led party reeling under factional feuds. On March 18th last year the internal clashes within the party led nine Congress MLA’s including Bahuguna to revolt aginst Rawat. They all demanded a trust vote in the assembly. It was after a brief period of President’s rule that the nine rebels were disqualified from participating in the vote of confidence and Rawat was again re-appointed as Chief Minister of the state. The most marvel thing is that all nine rebels are now in BJP. Many have been denied Congress party tickets for the upcoming Assembly polls and now Rawat is trying to console them by saying “there are only 70 seats in the state and not everyone would get a party ticket, but if you stay with me, support me, I will take care of you.’’
He makes request to all his members, “this is the last chance for Congress to be in power here if the BJP wins, we will never be able to retain power back.” Whereas, when Modi landed in Dehradun recently to address the BJP’s Parivartan rally, both the parties the BJP and the Congress were watching the turnout closely. Happily for the BJP, parade ground was filed to the brim. Modi remarked in his speech that while his rally during the Loksabha campaign had seen a sizeable turn out, it was far better this time. Many BJP Leaders after this rally claimed that “the people of Uttrakhand have seen the performance of the Modi government and they are bound to compare that with the corrupted Congress government.”
Modi is the BJP’s poll mascot in the state, with the party having decided not to project a chief minister candidate. In the recent opinion polls BJP sets to claim power in the state. The BJP has four former chief ministers in its fold- B.C Khanduri, Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, Ramesh Pokhriyal and Bahuguna but it is not in position to field any of them as chief minister. On the other hand, the Congress has now got election strategist Prashant Kishor to fine-tune the campaign. Rawat called him “chawan prash.” However, Rawat is increasingly being seen as dictatorial, also saddled with anti-incumbency, and is being attacked by the BJP for allegedly promoting corruption. In public meetings, senior BJP leaders have played the alleged sting operation against Rawat. He is purportedly shown trying to buy MLA’s when his government faced a crisis of members.
Demonetization and surgical strikes are recurrent themes in the BJP’s Parivartan yatras. Both are being projected as Modi’s bold moves. It is felt that demonetization has the people’s support, despite the inconvenience that they have faced. And, the surgical strikes have already resonated the state, which has a substantial representation in the armed forces. Also, through the Parivartan Yatras , senior leaders have been emphasizing that a BJP government in Dehradun could coordinate better in New Delhi, resulting in more development. “Uttrakhand will now be nurtured and developed under the leadership of PM Modi, if our party is voted to power,” BJP President Amit Shah said in Dehradun recently.
Rawat, on the other hand, projects himself as a victim. He tells people that his elected government was removed by a ‘power hungry’ centre. He has also talked about development work being stalled by the Modi government. In public meetings he tells people that all the mighty leaders of BJP are together trying to defeat a poor chief minister. A prominent theme in his Vikas Sankalp Yatra has been the pending list of demands to the Centre. While, the BJP has countered him by asking him to show his own report card rather than to blame the Centre.
It would be exciting to see on 11 March who comes to power by what number, for now surely the temperature is dropping in the hills, but the electoral fight in Uttrakahand is undeniably hotting up.