Dehradun, Jan 9 (PTI) With power shuttling between the BJP and the Congress every five years in Uttarakhand, the ruling BJP faces the challenge of repeating its government for a second consecutive term when the state goes to polls on February 14.
The challenge is only stiffened by an anti-incumbency worsened by the fact that the party in power gave three chief ministers to the state in less than five years, changing two of them in quick succession despite storming to power with a huge mandate in 2017.
The change of two chief ministers within just a few months has led the incumbent BJP to face the charge of frittering the mandate it got in 2017 and causing political instability in the state.
It had won 57 of 70 seats in the 2017 Assembly polls, making the most of the Narendra Modi factor while the Congress won 11 and independents two.
The presence of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the fray as the other challenger also makes the poll scene different this time for both the Congress and the BJP.
Though most seats are likely to see straight contests between the BJP and the Congress, AAP may also make the contest triangular on a few.
However, unlike its formidable opponents, the party does not have much of an organisational base in the state, which may work to its disadvantage.
The Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKD) which had spearheaded the movement for a separate state is also trying to regain lost ground this time.
Led by Kashi Singh Airi, the UKD had given its support to the BJP to form a government under the leadership of Bhuvan Chandra Khanduri in 2007 but drew a blank in the 2012 and 2017 Assembly polls.
The BJP is seeking another term in the name of development projects like the reconstruction of Kedarnath, Char Dham all-weather road and Rishikesh-Karnaprayag rail line.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his poll rallies has described the decade as that of Uttarakhand, saying infrastructure projects underway in the state will boost tourism in a big way and generate large-scale employment opportunities.
The BJP, which has set itself a target of winning more than 60 seats this time, is also banking on the appeal of a young and fresh face in Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami.
To make all equations favourable, the BJP government also withdrew the Char Dham Devasthanam Board Act to pacify agitating priests.
However, the party has not formally made him a chief ministerial candidate. But, there are enough indications that Dhami, who was brought in as a replacement for Tirath Singh Rawat, could be given the top job again if the party is re-elected to power.
Dhami has been on a project unveiling spree ever since he took over.
“The party is fully prepared to go to the polls and confident of winning more than 60 seats this time,” state BJP president Madan Kaushik said.
State BJP leader Manveer Singh Chauhan said both the central and state governments have done a lot for Uttarakhand and he hopes people will bless the party once again.
Congress sees a chance for itself as it feels the jinx of the power ball swinging from one end to the other in the bipolar politics of Uttarakhand can work in its favour.
The Congress campaign head and former chief minister Harish Rawat is making change of two chief ministers in quick succession by the BJP a major issue apart from rising prices and unemployment.
Making full use of the social media in the time of coronavirus to drum up support for the party, Rawat has been telling people that the BJP has failed on all fronts.
“With the announcement of the poll dates, the time to bid adieu to the BJP draws near,” Rawat said.
“The BJP has let down people of the state by giving three chief ministers in five years. Give us a chance, we will bring back our old policies and make the state prosperous,” Rawat said.
However, Leader of Opposition in Uttarakhand Assembly Pritam Singh and Congress leader Devendra Yadav are opposed to Rawat’s projection as the chief ministerial face.
AAP on the other hand is asking voters to give it a chance as they had tried both the BJP and the Congress for 20 years. AAP’s national convener Arvind Kejriwal has also been offering freebies like 300 units of electricity to every household, jobs to youth and an unemployment allowance of Rs 5,000 to them till they get their jobs, free pilgrimage to the elderly and a monthly allowance of Rs 1,000 to all women.
As Uttarakhand has a large representation in the armed forces, Kejriwal has projected a retired Army man, Col Ajay Kothiyal, as the party’s chief ministerial candidate.
He has been promising to bring the Delhi model of development to Uttarakhand by giving a boost to education and health facilities in the state.
Though the single-phase polls in Uttarakhand were announced on Saturday, the major parties in the fray have been in poll mode for quite some time.
While Modi, Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh have addressed several poll rallies for the BJP in the state over the past a couple of months, Kejriwal and Rahul Gandhi have addressed one poll rally each in Dehradun. PTI DPT ALM RDK RDK
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Source: The Print