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Unnecessary Ambivalence

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Governments in Uttarakhand have largely adopted an ambivalent attitude towards the issue of declaring the status of Gairsain – whether it will be the permanent capital, or the summer one. The political parties such as Uttarakhand Kranti Dal that have made a fetish out of the issue have not been able to garner sufficient number of votes to have a say. In fact, UKD’s support among the electorate is diminishing, simply because its legislators, when given the opportunity, have wasted no time in allying with the ruling party and compromising this position. As such, governments are only concerned that Gairsain does not become the flashpoint of an agitation similar to that for a separate state; hence, the ambivalence.

However, this has also kept those in power from meeting the issue halfway and declaring Gairsain the Summer Capital. It would serve the purpose of governance and lead to development of infrastructure suited to increased tourism in the area. The two major parties are also not above using the issue to apply populist pressure against each other. The BJP dared the then CM, Harish Rawat, to declare it the permanent capital, while declaring itself in favour of a summer seat of power. Now that the BJP is in power, the roles have been reversed. The State President of the BJP, Ajay Bhatt, has reiterated the position, but Chief Minister TS Rawat is trying – like those before him – to position himself as a permanent capital wallah. He also seems uncomfortable with someone other than him making policy declarations.

Bhatt is right when he says it is pointless to hold Vidhan Sabha sessions in Gairsain with incomplete infrastructure and arrangements. The government has to foot the bill for the entire crowd that shifts there. In fact, at least during the early sessions under a tent – the way proceedings went, it was little short of a farce. One could not even properly hear the legislators speak and the decorum and dignity of the House was hard to maintain. The Gairsain sojourn is little more than tokenism and is treated little more than a picnic. Everybody is in a hurry to get home, and more than once the session has been truncated. The subordinate staff suffers the greatest inconvenience.

The political establishment should accept that sessions in Gairsain are largely symbolic and shifting the capital there will require much ingenuity, time, and a whole lot of money. As such, they can, either continue with the status quo, or take the bull by the horns and declare it the Summer Capital.

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