It would have been a cakewalk for the Congress in Uttarakhand had it not been for the Anna Factor. Although, there was no evident or entrenched anti-incumbency, it was a given that, in the natural course, it was the turn of the Congress to rule the state. Unfortunately, the party persisted with its arrogant approach to the civil society movement, claiming it had the people’s electoral support and did not need to consider public opinion. The party has been taught a very important political lesson that all mature democracies know well – public opinion precedes electoral verdicts.
On the other hand, the BJP shamelessly genuflected to civil society, knowing fully well it could only add to its cache. The party also adopted the stratagem of ditching its poorly performing MLAs, indentified through an in-party survey, in the knowledge that anti-incumbency in the parliamentary form of democracy was often against the individual representing the constituency. This was yet another act of expressed humility before public opinion, which was much appreciated. It was a bold decision, leading to much dissidence, but the people fully appreciated this acknowledgement of their power.
In contrast, the Congress persisted with the attitude that the people were obliged to vote in its favour. As a result, the BJP covered a lot of lost ground, and the Congress has fallen tantalisingly short of a majority. In other states, too, the Congress has been rebuffed even more resoundingly, losing Goa and failing to close the almost done deal in Punjab. It was never a contender in UP, but the rejection was severe enough to puncture the hype that was built around Rahul Gandhi.
The shocker – the defeat of Chief Minister BC Khanduri from Kotdwar – also indicates that it was the policy that worked and not so much the general’s persona. It may even be argued that the people had already seen his performance as Chief Minister during his earlier tenure and they did not feel that there was much room for improvement. It will also be alleged that the failure of a significant number of postal ballots to reach the service voters, and sabotage by partymen, were also a reason for his defeat. It can be said, therefore, that the Congress and BJP collaborated in bringing him down.
Garhwal Post maintained throughout the course of this election that the fight would be extremely close, to the extent that government formation would very likely depend on the BSP. This was in the belief that the two national parties would, both, get fewer seats and the BSP could even add to its earlier tally. However, it is clear that certain communities have deserted the party not just in UP, but also in Uttarakhand. However, going by the numbers, it seems it may still play kingmaker. Indeed, it seems the BJP survey was not comprehensive enough, as even stalwarts like Prakash Pant have had to face defeat. More likely though, this was because many in Kumaon voted thinking a Congress victory was certain. All the more reason for people to vote on the basis of their own analysis, and not just try to be on the winning side.
With 32 seats, the Congress is better placed than the BJP to form the government, simply because two of the independents are party rebels and have won against the BJP. They are more likely to join. The UKD(P) legislator would be naturally inclined to side with the Congress. That brings the Congress to the halfway mark with 35. All it needs is to get the independent who has won against a Congress candidate, or take the route of nominating an Anglo-Indian like earlier. The only natural allies of the BJP would be the 3 BSP MLAs, but that would keep it still short of the magic figure.
The BJP has suffered because of the defeat of stalwarts who would otherwise have been considered clear winners, such as Trivendra Singh Rawat and Matbar Singh Kandari. It was a tough contest and the polarisation that has taken place in Uttarakhand politics, in spite of the general disillusionment of the people with mainstream politicians, has ensured that the coming days will be truly eventful and assembly sessions will be stormy.