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‘Cold’ War

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The stage is set for the winter session of the State Assembly, beginning on 4 December, in more ways than one. The sight over social media of former chief minister Harish Rawat basking in the bright winter sun in the high reaches of Uttarakhand’s hills to reproach the government for its reluctance to hold the session in Gairsain ‘because of the cold’ has gone viral. As political drama it is effective, but it is not a sentiment shared widely even in his own party. It has, however, provoked Chief Minister TS Rawat enough to describe his proposed protest at Gairsain as a ‘fast to lose weight’. State Congress President Pritam Singh and Leader of the Opposition Dr Indira Hridayesh have claimed that, given the government’s dismal performance, there is no shortage of issues to be raised in the Vidhan Sabha.

One such is the proposed creation of a ‘Shrine Board’ in the state, which has received serious opposition from the priests and others involved in the functioning of the Char Dham and associated temples. The Congress naturally intends to ride this resentment to the extent it can, both, within and outside the House. Chief Minister Rawat’s claim that the state’s GDP growth is 32% will also be questioned, particularly as the unemployment level has not gone down. There is also discontentment among the MLAs of the ruling party for a number of reasons that could be exploited.

Then there are the ‘usual’ issues that are vital to the state’s well-being but seem to disappear at election time, such as schools, hospitals, roads, power and water supply in the mountain villages, which are among the primary causes for the migration to the plains. Beyond setting up a committee that submitted a ‘report’, nothing substantial has been done. There is enough substance in these grievances to ensure a heated session, if only the largely outnumbered opposition can get its act together. It is possible that, having successfully outmaneuvered the BJP in Maharashtra, the Congress morale will be high and it will perform with greater purpose than in the past. It will be interesting to see how the Chief Minister rallies his troops in the face of the coming challenge.