How the opposition lost Uttarakhand | Latest India News
To understand Uttarakhand, think of Punjab.
In Punjab, the Congress’ decision to change its Chief Minister (CM) gave the impression of a party in disarray and opened up infighting in unprecedented ways, contributing to its defeat in the state. The main opposition, the Aam Aadmi party, capitalized on the churn and won a historic mandate in a state where the political playing field is deeply fragmented and it is difficult to secure an absolute majority.
In Uttarakhand, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) changed its CM twice – in March and then in September last year – giving the state three CMs in the space of five years. He ran into trouble with his own conservative religious base over the relationship between the state and the temples. He faced huge criticism for holding the Kumbh Mela in the state, even as the second wave of Covid-19 grew. She has witnessed natural disasters, opening the debate on the implications of the development paradigm and the climate crisis. And his third choice as CM, incumbent Pushkar Singh Dhami, lost his own seat.
Yet the opposition, represented by Congress, in what is basically a bipolar state, has been unable to capitalize on the political weaknesses and governance deficits of the ruling regime. The BJP made history by becoming the first party in the state to return to power in its 22-year history.
That kind of sums up the history of Uttarakhand’s elections.
The BJP demonstrated an ability to act on ground-level feedback and make tough decisions – it knew having Trivendra Singh Rawat in power risked alienating its base, and its replacement, Tirath Singh Rawat, had been unable to put the house in order, thus choosing a third candidate in less than a year. He showed an ability to keep his house in order despite this turnover – which was a sign of organizational discipline. For a party that prides itself on offering stability, it has recognized that it is associated with political instability and has invested considerable campaign resources and high-level attention to offset this perceived weakness of the state. And he has sought to cement his base in both Kumaon and Gharwal, amplify his national security credentials in a state that contributes substantially to the armed forces, and reiterate his commitment to religious institutions, both as a cultural symbol but also as an economic multiplier. And he focused on his wellness delivery. All of this was complemented by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s overall popularity in the state.
On the other hand, Congress first sent its most prominent state-level face, Harish Rawat, to put out – or some would say ignite – the fires in Punjab and wasted precious time. He was then unable to resolve a leadership struggle between Rawat and Pritam Singh. He failed to introduce new vocabulary that would turn voters, who were in fact looking for viable alternatives, away from the BJP. He failed to build a political constituency on issues of development, environment and political stability. And he had no language to counter the BJP’s assertion of religiosity.
The BJP won Uttarakhand for sure, but in this victory their greatest asset was a truly dysfunctional Congress, both in Delhi and Dehradun.