The Uttarakhand BJP is suddenly in public relations overdrive. The Chief Minister, Trivendra Singh Rawat, along with a few of his MLAs, is busy inaugurating, launching and approving projects in every part of the state. Even Union Ministers are not lagging behind, showcasing achievements such as the first tunnel for a railway line in the hills. Quite obviously, they are in election mode, as the public will be expected in little more than a year’s time to declare its verdict on the state government’s performance – in a state that has not yet brought an incumbent government back to power. Having achieved unparalleled highs in elections around the country under PM Modi, the government in Uttarakhand feels particularly confident of achieving this unique feat.
The state did reasonably well in dealing with the pandemic, though it could have definitely done better. The shortcomings primarily were in transforming government policy into administrative action. The state never got on top of controlling the spread. And, indeed, this gap between the government and the administration is visible in almost all areas of activity. This can probably be attributed to the lack of administrative experience in the ministers. The lack of confidence in the party’s MLAs is evident from the fact that three cabinet positions have remained vacant. Obviously, nobody was thought good enough to occupy the posts. If the party leadership lacks this confidence, why should the voters be expected to vote for them?
On the corruption front, except for a couple of habitual offenders, the record thus far has been reasonably good. The Chief Minister takes pride in a policy of ‘zero-tolerance’, which may have operated at the higher level. However, systemic corruption, all those bribe-taking babus, remained undeterred – another reason why grassroots functioning has lacked bite.
The saving grace has been the implementation of central level schemes and programmes that have made a difference in the people’s lives. There is no doubt that the electoral ship will have to be helmed home by PM Modi. At the same time, a lot will depend on the selection of constituency-wise candidates. There is absolutely no doubt that, at least half of the incumbents have failed to impress. Whatever got them past the post in the last election is not going to serve them in the coming contest – that is for sure! They will need to be dumped if the past performance is to be repeated. Merely depending on the shortcomings of the opposition will not do.