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Congress has steady face in Uttarakhand

[dropcap]U[/dropcap]ttarakhand is an important state to win in 2017 for both Congress as well as BJP. Congress would obviously want to retain power, whereas BJP would like to prove that the political game on display in Dehradun over the last few months was in fact insightful of the popular mood and would like to wrest the state from Congress eventually helping in adding a seat or two in the Rajya Sabha. With heavyweight turncoats on BJP’s side against an emaciated Congress line up, the former may appear to have an advantage in Uttarakhand which goes to polls on February 15 but the absence of a chief ministerial candidate may prove to be a stumbling block. However, when Uttarakhand was granted statehood in 2000, Dehradun was made the provisional capital. For 16 years now, the BJP and Congress have been engaged in blame game when questioned about development issues, something the parties have been using for electoral benefits.

While Congress is going to the polls with a definite face in Harish Rawat, BJP has left people guessing about who would get the top office if the latter is voted to power, the presence of too many strong traitors on its side is only adding to confusion. Presently, Congress is in power and BJP is the main opposition. Ever since Uttarakhand was formed, the state has been in an alternate party system where once Congress comes to power followed by BJP. Any keen observer of politics of the state will agree that it is difficult to pick a winner at this stage, though the current scenario puts Congress a little ahead. But then, the way BJP is promoting itself with various tactics, you never know if the table turns.

The key players in the state are only Congress and BJP. BSP has a waning presence. SP’s presence is almost negligible. UKD has shot itself in the foot over the course of the last 15 years. AAP is yet to come out as a major force in the state and doesn’t look capable of making its presence felt in 2017. Harish Rawat is a popular Chief Minister. His connect with the electorate is quite strong, and he has been able to position himself as a CM who is close to the common people.

Earlier, the political drama played out in the state over the last few months has affected BJP’s credibility and has projected it as a party ready to grab power in the state by hook or by crook. All but the much publicised CD of Harish Rawat, has played against the BJP. It’s similar to the sting operation CD of AAP during Delhi elections that damaged BJP’s chances. BJP has mastered in playing such dirty games and by now voters are very well aware of it. On the other hand, Harish Rawat was able to manage the crisis thrown at his government rather well, and came out as the victim. This would give him sympathy from the voter. BJP ended on the wrong side, positioning itself more as a predator.

Harish Rawat has emerged stronger within the party and has almost a free hand to manage the election which normally works out well for any party in an election. The tiff with the PCC President Kishore Upadhyay is certainly an issue but lesser than the huge situation of infighting BJP is facing. BJP which attracted several heavyweights from Congress is in a rather precarious situation. With four former CMs Koshiyari, Nishank, Khanduri, Bahuguna in its ranks, and another couple of highly ambitious CM hopefuls Maharaj and Harak Singh Rawat, the party is facing squabbling at a scale much larger than Congress. This has made necessary for the party to fight the election without a CM face and if they win the deciding CM candidate would be another challenge. BJP will have unstable and shattered government. Ajay Bhatt has proved to be a weak Leader of Opposition in the last 5 years, and yet he being given the added responsibility of BJP state chief against the party’s convention of one man one post clearly creates a dilemma for it.

A fight without a clear CM candidate against Harish Rawat is not a very smart move for BJP. Though, Amit Shah will leave no stone unturned to manage election smartly in the state. But here again, Harish Rawat is also not very far behind in terms of strategy in the context of Uttarakahand. The mood created by the surgical strikes certainly works out in favour of BJP. How long will this sustain before being taken over by state level issues is something that cannot be predicted at this point of time. Corruption is an issue but BJP’s previous CMs don’t have a better image on that front. A third opinion poll, this one held by Lokniti-ABP News, also arrived at the same consensus: That the BJP will win at least 10 seats more than Congress and comfortably sweep polls to form a government on its own. The survey had BJP bagging 35-43 seats in the 70-member Assembly, reducing Congress to just 22-30 seats.

As far as voteshare is concerned, the survey said, Congress is likely to win about 33 per cent of total votes polled, as compared to 40 per cent won by the BJP. This represents a 7 per cent improvement for the BJP since the 2012 Assembly polls, but also suggests a 15 per cent reduction in votes polled from the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. However, the votes are going against present government, chief minister Harish Rawat’s popularity remains undiminished. Of those polled, 19 per cent said they would like to see Rawat as chief minister, while BJP’s chief ministerial frontrunner BC Khanduri was picked up by only 13 per cent of the respondents. Most of the times news channels surveys go wrong when it comes to airing actual results. Let’s see who makes to power in Uttarakhand but people are still with Harish Rawat and that is quite visible.

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