The ruling BJP in Uttarakhand is clearly in election mode even though there is still time for the next assembly contest. It seems to be making up for the year lost to Covid. The Chief Minister is energetically travelling around the state, ‘reviewing development’, seeing how many of his past announcements have fared in bureaucratic hands, laying foundations stones and inaugurating projects. He has also made a much publicised visit to Delhi and ‘obtained’ numerous projects and necessary funding from the PM and several Union Ministers. All kinds of social welfare schemes and policies are being implemented to empower women and make life easier for them, particularly in the hills. Government employees can expect some handouts, too, in the near future.
This is, of course, part of the larger push at the national level being undertaken in several poll bound states, despite the fact that the BJP is not even a major contender in the South. It is just that it is necessary to exploit an advantageous position. In Uttarakhand, however, there is much prestige involved because as the party in power it will seek to break the pattern thus far of incumbents being voted out. Another stint in power would render the Congress even more ineffective as an opposition, creating a Gujarat like situation.
It is difficult to judge the state government’s performance mostly because of the Covid interlude. Even before that, though, it was a middling performance – neither great nor dismal. The effort seemed largely to be about the CM consolidating his hold within the party, with governance left mostly to the bureaucracy. It has been a challenging task keeping the Congress defectors in line, stalwarts as they are with strong followings, while maintaining party discipline. The inability to fill cabinet positions has revealed some fundamental insecurity, the implications of which will become known in the future. It cannot be said whether the ‘development’ initiative underway these days will provide the desired electoral pay off.
A plus for the BJP is the failure of the Congress to recover from the setback it faced in the previous election. Its major leaders are aging and following their own interests rather than that of the party. Going by the inroads made by AAP into Congress territory in Gujarat, the fear of it doing the same in Uttarakhand has become greater. So, while PM Modi’s popularity and overall voter inclinations might favour the BJP, much will also depend on the performance of individual MLAs in their constituencies. This will have to be taken into account during candidate selection. To that extent, the game still remains open.