The Congress protest near the Vidhan Sabha on Monday (with little regard to Covid-19 protocols) indicates a sudden urge to present itself as the alternative to the BJP, triggered obviously by the formal entry of AAP into the electoral fray. The protest focused, naturally, on the hot topic of the times – the farmers’ woes, which include pending payment for sugarcane in the Uttarakhand context. For too long has factionalism weakened the party despite the need to put up a united front in present times of crisis. Leaders such as Harish Rawat and Dr Indira Hridayesh rule the roost in their areas of influence and like the traditional banyan tree have not allowed a younger leadership to develop.
In the Garhwal region, State President Pritam Singh has been unable to influence areas beyond his home constituency of Chakrata, which is itself always under challenge. It also may be noted that most of the party’s leaders, including those who defected to the BJP, won their spurs at the time of undivided UP. Is it that Uttarakhand’s political culture has not developed enough to provide the opportunity for talent to emerge? Are smaller constituencies throwing up leaders with limited background and exposure? Is the situation going to improve over time or get worse?
Now, even the miserable representation that the Congress has in the Vidhan Sabha is being further threatened by the wily AAP. There is very little time for the Congress to get its act together, which would begin with identifying issues that people are dissatisfied with. Recent opinion polls should alert it to the fact that there is little sympathy among the general public for the protesting farmers as they are perceived more as commission agents and ill-informed landowners. There have to be missteps taken by the Trivendra Singh Rawat Government closer to home – the takeover of the Char Dhams, for one. Of course, there is little scope in the ongoing truncated session of the Vidhan Sabha to score any points – protests outside would be more headline-grabbing. However, preparations have to be made for the future and the little talent there is harnessed to prepare a strategy that could lead to a recovery. Where is former MLA Navprabhat, for instance? The top leadership must stop taking things for granted, even its own re-election, and join forces to put up whatever challenge it can.