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The BJP student wing, ABVP, did well as usual in the students’ union elections held across the state. The NSUI, more or less, reflected the overall position of its parent body, the Congress, in Uttarakhand. This indicates the political preferences of the state’s youth. What is significant, however, is that independent groups also managed to do well, even trumping the ABVP in Dehradun’s largest college for the President’s post.

There is a lesson to be learned from this. It is not necessary the alternative to the BJP has to be the Congress. In fact, the emergence of the ‘other’ might actually be hampered by people not looking beyond the Congress. Everybody knows that, in ideological terms, the Congress has fossilized almost beyond recovery. It is only by harking back to past glory and the Nehru-Gandhi family that it seeks people’s votes. The only departure from this was in the Narasimha Rao era. What is needed, therefore, is politics rooted in present day reality. The AAP had remarkable success in this regard, focusing on people’s concerns about corruption and social welfare. Unfortunately, it has rapidly deteriorated from a ‘representative’ organisation to one focused on just one person – Arvind Kejriwal. People may be disillusioned but that does not mean the political space has disappeared.

Those wishing to find a place in politics outside of the ‘biggies’ should go back to the basics and build a genuinely democratic organisation that has the smarts to address present day issues. They must have an understanding of the complex nature of present-day society, particularly the economic challenges the world faces. It cannot just be focused on ‘distributive justice’ but also on creating conditions for growth.

Parties like the UKD and BSP, for instance, had a potentially large base in Uttarakhand but could not keep their act together. The BSP still manages to get votes in certain constituencies, but the allocation of tickets by its Supremo on the basis of wrong criteria keeps it from achieving its potential. The UKD has been riven by factionalism, causing it to lose sight of the bigger picture. It is wrong to expect big gains in the short term and any group wishing to provide an alternative should begin from the basics. Rather than ‘importing’ some charismatic personality as the AAP attempted to do in the previous election, it is necessary to create and further a positive narrative and, then, patiently wait for when the opportunity comes at the constituency and state levels. The independent students’ unions have shown this can be done.