Uttarakhand as a state is better off in that the political divides are not so explicitly based on caste, community or region. Ideologies play a larger role, as well as the quality of functioning of parties and individuals. The connection with national issues is also much greater, having to do with the state’s large Diaspora. That is why even those who belonged to the statehood movement or the UKD have not over the years found themselves much in favour with the electorate. The Left, for instance, has had a strong presence in intellectual circles but has failed to make a mark, politically. As such, even when there is a change in government, the actual policies on the ground have been middle of the road, conservative and status-quoist. Even in the case of transformative policies adopted at the Centre, the impact is low by the time these reach Uttarakhand. So, actually, the voters have not been giving themselves much of a choice when switching governments. It remains to be seen what emerges this time around.
On the other hand, in the case of UP, the choices are much starker. The ongoing polarisation between the casteist feudal forces and Hindutva has a much greater impact on the ground. The anti-Hindutva movement today has a re-energised icon – Akhilesh Yadav, who has succeeded in galvanising the support base. And going by his utterances, the consequences of his coming to power will be retributive for all those who ‘collaborated’ with the earlier regime. This is starkly in contrast with the usual line taken by those on a winning trajectory, who usually promise more inclusive government. He is doing this to harness the anger among those who feel they have been at the receiving end of discrimination by the present dispensation.
The people of UP are fully aware of this and will have factored in this element in the way they have voted. With Akhilesh Yadav becoming the ‘preferred’ face of the opposition, those who have traditionally had other preferences – and the number is substantial – will have felt pressured to choose between the polarised forces. Which way they shifted will determine who forms the new government. It must be noted that this could happen decisively, either way. It is a crucial decision because the consequences will be far more severe as compared to a change in Uttarakhand. It will also be an important turning point for the nation.