The BJP, with its deep organisational structure and feedback mechanisms, has already been working on re-election preparations in Uttarakhand. The Congress, on the other hand – much weakened by desertions and top-heavy with ‘veteran’ politicians – has barely recovered from the knockout blow it suffered in the last elections. Instead of learning the lessons, it continues with its chronic factionalism, paying token tribute to the dynasty induced ‘unity’ of the party. On Thursday, however, it took the first baby steps towards collective action by holding a meeting of its leaders, virtually. Quite obviously, the need for electoral survival has stirred even the most comatose of its leaders.
One of the reasons for the widespread demoralisation of the party cadre is the enormous popularity of Prime Minister Modi. This is why former Chief Minister Harish Rawat has exhorted that the election campaign’s focus be on incumbent CM Trivendra Singh Rawat, instead, as it is his performance that requires examination. There is no doubt that the BJP has been for quite some time now been sailing on the Modi wave, particularly in Uttarakhand, but it should now be challenged on its actual delivery in the state.
Thus far, CM TS Rawat’s performance has been a mixed bag. Its single most excellent achievement has been the implementation of the Atal Ayushman Bharat scheme on all sections of society, which is limited to the BPL category in other states. This has brought enormous relief to the sections that might be above the ‘poverty’ level, but always find it difficult to pay their medical expenses, particularly during emergencies. If this scheme is administered properly, kept free of corrupt practices and improved where necessary, it alone will qualify the BJP to get past the majority mark.
However, there are several negatives the Congress could successfully focus on, such as the Devasthanam Board controversy, the BJP’s internal rivalry that has prevented the appointment of ministers to the vacancies in the Cabinet, the poor functioning of the bureaucracy, the gaps in handling of the pandemic, and the continuance of cumbersome administration. The Congress has cautiously avoided making controversial statements on the Ramjanmabhoomi Temple, which is a good first step. There is no need to tip-toe around the issue as the minority vote is already in the bag. And, to carry Harish Rawat’s advice further, it is also time to focus on the performance of individual Ministers and MLAs, too many of whom have been around just for the ride. If, instead of attempting to keep personal fiefdoms intact, the veterans look within the party for deserving candidates to contest against the ruling party MLAs, there is no reason why the Congress will not put up a good show in the coming contest.