Uttarakhand from ground zero

In its latest order, the Uttarakhand High Court set aside the imposition of the President’s rule in the state. The court has allowed a floor test on April 29 and upheld the disqualification of nine Congress dissident MLAs. The legal battle does not end here. The Centre has challenged the High Court’s decision in the Supreme Court. There will be opinions on both sides of the divide. But what about the people of the state?  With a lot at stake, one of the key elements to this story will be the role of the independents.

The Congress has 27 MLAs after the disqualification of 9 rebels while the BJP has 28. The BSP has two MLAs, the UKD has one and three are independents. With Mantri Prasad Naithani, these six MLAs voted for the Congress. As they become king makers, the role of these MLAs will come under greater scrutiny. There is one independent MLA who is nominated and usually votes for the party in power.    

At ground zero there is a lot of skepticism against the political class. They see both the national parties as deeply corrupt entities and have lost their faith in a lot of leaders. Since the imposition of President’s rule, the results on the ground are there to see. The benefit of President’s rule has provided a welcome relief from the political class. 

Small states were administratively carved out for better delivery of services and speedier progress. Instead, what the people of Uttarakhand got was a new set of leaders with the same colonial mindset. The people of Uttarakhand are angry because they feel that the political class has betrayed their trust. The current impasse in the state is due to their greed for political power. The two national parties currently vying for power were not very active during the struggle for the state. They watched the proceedings from a distance. The state was created when it suited one of them. It was the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKD), which was a mainstay in the struggle for the creation of Uttarakhand. Another very active section in the struggle were the women. Today, the two mainstays behind the creation of the state have been sidelined and the people are paying the price. The state’s human developments indices are very poor.

Nationally Uttarakhand is known for its schools, religious and holy shrines, hill stations, and the gallant soldiers of Garhwal, Kumaon and Gorkha regiments. It also has acquired a new high of naked political power and political instability--a contribution of our leaders. This is also Uttarakhand “kay sera sera” moment, as the state’s political future will not be determined by its common citizens.

Certain political analysts argue that the ideal combination for any mature democracy is the presence of two parties. In the state, there are two national parties and only seventy elected MLAs. Yet, in sixteen years the state has seen eight chief ministers, with the ninth waiting in the wings. Where is the development? Despite having two parties and a small legislature, the state has been subject to poor governance. It is in the news for all the wrong reasons. The people have also questioned the ideology of the political class.  How do these legislators so easily defect from one party to another and expect us to accept them?  

The situation on the ground changes every day. What is good today may not hold for tomorrow.  There is anger on this front too. Just because Uttarakhand is a minor state and has only five MP it hardly gets its due in political mileage.  Could such wheeling and dealing go on in large states? Why experiment with small states? The issue will see some more twists and turns. There is only one final verdict and that is “people’s verdict”--the sooner, the better. 

(The author is a retired Brigadier. Views expressed are strictly personal)
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