Millennium Post

Reversal of political fortunes?

The BJP might have taken these elections lightly under the impression that the Congress men in the state are anyway demoralised after their humiliating defeat in Lok Sabha elections. With the Congress sweep in these by-elections, one is forced to believe that the party has not yet lost everything.  A few political analysts have been opining about imminent arrival of the good days for the oldest party in the country. Even the present CM, Harish Rawat is being mentioned as a harbinger of hope for his party.

Generally the by-election results are not considered any parameter to gauge public opinion but the visible change that has taken place after a short period of 60 days in the state leaves no ground to avoid making serious analysis. The BJP, with its thumping victory, secured all five Lok Sabha seats with 55.3 per cent votes against 34 per cent vote share of the Congress. The victory of the Congress in the three by-elections to the Assembly is surprising. The convincing margins have even astonished the Congress men.  The recent results might not be seen only as a victory of the Congress but as the defeat of the BJP in the two constituencies, held by a former CM, Ramesh Pokhriryal Nishank and another legislator Ajay Tamta, before being elected to the Lok Sabha in May 2014.

The present victory of the Congress is because of CM Harish Rawat, as he could not join electioneering. He returned on the pitch of election just a day before the end of campaigning.  He was confined at the AIIMS hospital for nearly two months after having suffered neck fracture.  The change of guard in Uttarakhand has always been dramatic by deputing any union minister or MP to take over the leadership of the legislature party; hence, forcing the new incumbent to get a seat vacated by any sitting legislator and gets him elected within six months. B C Khanduri, Vijay Bahuguna and Harish Rawat were forced to take this route to become the CM.

The dissimilarity is only one, Khanduri and Bahuguna tamed sitting MLAs of the main opposition party to vacate the seat whereas Rawat got a seat vacated by a sitting Congress MLA. With three more seats in its kitty the Congress has secured an absolute majority in 70 member house, one is nominated member and has been backing the ruling party. The present strength of the Congress has gone to 35 whereas the BJP has been reduced from 30 to 28 as the Congress snatched two seats from the saffron party.  The Congress now would not have to look for support of three BSP and three independent legislators. The Assembly elections results were always neck to neck but the Lok Sabha results, on number of occasions, have given a clean sweep to either the Congress or the BJP.

The results in 2012 Assembly elections were a close finish. The BJP could not return to power as the CM Khanduri lost by a slander margin, hence, giving an edge of one seat to the Congress to become the largest party and to further muster majority in the hung house. The Congress could reach this magic figure only because of the untiring campaigning by an energetic leader, Harish Rawat. A sitting MP, Vijay Bahuguna was paraglide to take over as the CM by the party high command against Rawat, a natural choice.

Bahuguna took over on 13 March 2012 and resigned on 31 January 2014 after his sharp criticism on the lapses in handling the post devastation relief works in the state marred by an unprecedented rain, flash floods and large scale landslide. It is generally opined that Rawat would have been in a better position to manage the relief works and defuse the BJP wave in Lok Sabha elections, had he been the CM.

Rawat was first elected to the 7th Lok Sabha as a Congress candidate in 1980 defeating a BJP stalwart M M Joshi from Almora.  He represented Almora in the 8th and 9th Lok Sabha. Rawat represented his state in the Rajya Sabha from 2002-2008. Rawat represented Haridwar in the 15 Lok Sabha and was appointed as an MOS and later promoted as a cabinet minister during UPA-II regime. 

He had been the head of Congress Sewa Dal, apart from being associated with a large number of social organisations. Rawat contributed immensely in the trade union activities to raise legitimate demands of the government employees, fighting for their cause and pressing for better scales, dearness allowance and other amenities. He has never considered himself as a big leader. As a commoner he had been keeping close contact with public which helps him in improving competence. His clean image resulted in the Congress sweep in these by-elections.

The author is a communication consultant

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