Electoral drubbing in Uttarakhand

The Modi wave has swept the nation and events are unfolding quickly at the state level too. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has resigned from the post on moral grounds and as the BJP made serious inroads into Assam, chief minister Gogoi resigned as well. The Delhi government, where Arvind Kejriwal resigned and the assembly was suspended, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is thinking of restarting with the support of the Congress as people’s verdict, in the recent parliament elections, was heavily against them. Will the people of Delhi give them a second chance? Voter’s awareness is so sharp and the message so clear that performance has become a staple indicator. Other issues do matter but the overriding principle is development. There is however, a subtle difference between resigning and dissolving of the assembly. In the former, same party may administer but in dissolving, a fresh mandate is required. Closer home in Uttarakhand where there is a precedence of the state government, headed by General Khanduri resigning in 2009 owning full responsibility for the 5-0 drubbing the BJP, got at the hands of the Congress, while today the BJP has returned the favour. But the Congress government, which has lost power nationally, is seeming to be clinging to power whereever it can hold the same.

Is case of Uttarakhand, a little different than the rest of the nation, is the moot question? Uttarakhand was the only state that suffered drastically at the hands of nature and needs special attention being the abode of the Gods for the nation. The state needs urgent attention from the effects of the Himalayan Tsunami that wreaked havoc amongst the people of the state. One year after the deluge the people have spoken overwhelmingly against those in power for not being able to deliver. Migration continues from the hills and human development indices continue to be poor. If a state government cannot deliver in one year by its own admission and changes its chief minister, just prior to do or die, national elections than the party has no moral responsibility to govern.

The second factor is the Satpal Maharaj, a former Congress heavy weight, who went to the BJP for overlooking him in favour of Harish Rawat as the CM of the state. It was the departure of Satpal Maharaj from Congress to BJP, which set the cat amongst the pigeons as in the 70 member state legislature the Congress has 33 seats, BJP 30 seats and independents 7. Maharaja’s wife Amrita Rawat was a minister who was removed today but is still a Congress legislature and some more legislature bear allegiance to him. The CM has sent a tough message.

The third reason is factionalism in the Congress. Recently the CM has been distributing red beacons to various camp followers, be they of Bhaguna or Satpal camp, a total of 20 such perks have been given in the period after the election results. At the last count out of 33 Congress MLA’s 20 have status of cabinet rank, some have two ministries a free for all as far as red beacons are concerned such that it is difficult to keep a tab of who has got what. This method is not about governance and people mandate it is a survival technique and people see through such shoddy attempts to hold power.

The fourth reason is Panchayat elections. In a three tier democracy the Panchayat elections are the most keenly fought elections which are due shortly and the moral code for the same comes into effect from 27 May. The panchayat elections are a different cup of tea and the issues are very different. The calculation for the Congress is that the Modi wave will not work at the panchayat level, and it may be prudent to hold on to power to get better results at the panchayat level. If the Congress were to tender its resignation or change guard now, the average worker will be demoralised and the result of the panchayat elections will be a fore gone conclusion. On the other hand the BJP, riding high on the Modi wave, wants to go in for the same from an advantageous position. It thus seems the Rawat government may bid for time till 27 May 2014 once the moral code is in place they will survive and thereafter the panchayat elections results may be a saviour. The panchayat elections definitely will show a few things, the first is how deep the Modi wave penetrated has and how quickly can the BJP encash on the same. For the Congress it will be a fresh start. The issues are different and the people are different, thus may come as a face saver, but what if there is a calamity there also? For the student of political science it will showcase the maturity of the Uttarakhand voter thus needs to be observed nationally.

Nationally the BJP contestants have won by a lakh plus votes on at least 305 parliament seats, the story here in Uttarakhand was no different. The contestants in all the five seats have won by a margin of 95,690 being the least at Almora where the difference last time was around 5,000 votes to 2,84,717 at Nanital where the difference was the most. In the state of Uttarakhand a total of 43,67,093 (62 per cent) votes were cast and BJP got 24,29,698 votes or 55.63 votes which augurs well penetration wise for both assembly segment and panchayat elections. Will the panchayat elections, where voting percentage is higher and penetration deeper, show similar trends, difficult to forecast? Any poll percentage more than 50 per cent is a resounding victory, but the Indian voter is sharp and both parties are trying tricks, one to ride the wave and another to get rid of the wave.
The dilemma for the ruling party is thus for these five reasons to bid for time and wait for it to heal the wounds. Looking back there will always be a question mark on the timing of the panchayat polls before or after the parliament elections?

As a citizen of the state we need a stable government that has a clear mandate and is not on life support system. It must have at least 45 MLAs with a clear mandate for good governance. The state must also have a comprehensive national hill development model, as the current model is plain centric and does not work well in the hill states nationally.

The author is a retired brigadier

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