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Final Stretch

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The somewhat tepid canvassing for the municipal polls came to an end on Friday. Hopefully, people will display the necessary enthusiasm when it comes to vote on 18 November. The counting will take place on 20 November and results will become known somewhat tardily, as mostly ballot papers will be used. Undoubtedly a major exercise for officials more used to pressing buttons to obtain results!

After the formation of new municipal corporations, there are now eight such bodies in Dehradun, Haridwar, Kotdwar, Roorkee, Haldwani, Rishikesh, Rudrapur and Kashipur, where the mayoral contests will be a matter of prestige, particularly for the BJP and Congress. In most municipalities, there have been new inclusions from previously rural areas – many of them contentious – which will bring an unpredictable twist to many contests. There have also been the usual complaints about deficiencies in the electoral rolls. Also, many Uttarakhandis work out of the state and, after the recent festival season, have returned and will not be able to come home to vote. As most of them are young people, it will skew the demographics of the result! Do political parties factor this in while deciding on candidates?

Traditionally, independents have played a significant role in municipal polls, as it is possible for individuals to have personal clout at this level of democracy. Also, the usual number of rebels has come out to contest from all parties, and will certainly impact the results.

The BJP is obviously hoping to continue its winning spree of the assembly elections. The opposition will be happy to interpret any shortfall as a vote not only against the final target, Narendra Modi, but also as a verdict on Chief Minister TS Rawat’s performance, thus far. In fact, the stakes for the latter are much higher, as he was not the party’s chief ministerial face before the elections and was nominated afterwards. His right to the party’s leadership will come under question if there is any shortfall. The voters will be fully aware of all these aspects and will naturally vote accordingly.

While it is important that there should be a political symmetry down the line from the state government to the municipalities so that development can take place unencumbered by party differences, it is just as important that the voters communicate the message on their preferences with utmost clarity. Part of this involves punishing poor performance and corruption of the past most emphatically. It would help set the priorities right.