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Early Portents

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The just concluded elections to the Urban Local Bodies of Uttarakhand have thrown up an excellent template for political parties to plan their crucial campaigns for the coming General Elections in 2019. The trends will be immediate enough to act upon, while there is still enough time to apply correctives where required. Such a gift is rare before any election. Of course, in the Uttarakhand context, the political parties that matter for the Lok Sabha are the BJP and Congress. This is apparent from the recent results where ‘other’ parties have failed to make a mark.

Now that the dust has settled, the BJP claims it has received a similar percentage of votes as it did in the 2017 assembly elections, in which case its support base remains intact. This would imply that it is the Congress that has lost supporters, mostly to independent candidates. The truth will become known when more detailed information is provided by the State Election Commission. However, there is no reason for the party to be complacent as, despite its ‘good’ performance, it has witnessed humiliating defeats in the Chief Minister’s own Vidhan Sabha constituency of Doiwala; the State President’s constituency; Gairsain, the ‘emotional’ capital; the ‘Hindu’ city of Haridwar, Mussoorie, etc.

Some of these defeats can be explained by sabotage from within, as local satraps’ wishes were not met in candidate selection. This problem will become more aggravated when only five tickets will be available in the entire state for the Lok Sabha. These matters need to be sorted out after careful examination of the most recent voting patterns. If the necessary cooperation is not forthcoming from the senior leaders of the government and party, the matter needs closer examination as to why. There are matters, of course, where the party line has to be followed strictly, but is the necessary autonomy being given to ministers and such like to perform their duties? Is their resentment brewing among members of the Council of Ministers? Are the new ‘inductees’ of 2017 feeling comfortable? Are behind the scenes players eyeing tickets for the Lok Sabha, which could upset the local leadership?

While for the BJP it is an embarrassment of riches in terms of leaders and following, it is just the opposite for the Congress. Its only leader of charisma in the state remains Harish Rawat and he cannot exactly be described as representative of the present generation. The second line of leadership has little influence beyond the local level. No new leaders have emerged that could make an impact. No wonder that Congress candidates have come in third at many places. It remains to be seen what steps the Congress can take to rectify this in the remaining time. But, as things go, nobody can claim early warning didn’t exist of how things are likely to shape up.