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Kothiyal Gambit

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Politics in Uttarakhand has taken an interesting turn with the induction of Col Ajay Kothiyal (Retd) into the Aam Aadmi Party. Till now, the party’s state unit was just a collection of unknown political wannabes hoping to ride its potential to success. Now, it has a well-recognised face that can be projected as not just a potential chief minister, but also a symbol of AAP’s developmental approach. Early strikes had been delivered by Delhi Deputy CM Manish Sisodia by highlighting the purported poor condition of Uttarakhand’s schools. It was made known then that ‘someone special’ would be joining the party to lead the coming electoral battle.

The fact is that the two major parties – BJP and Congress – more or less have monopolised the state’s leadership. Even a party with deep roots in the people’s psyche, the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal, has been unable to throw up state level leaders. Its few leaders were only too happy to trade electoral success for personal advantage, often happy to ride the coat-tails of the bigger parties for ministerial positions. This did not go down well with the voters, leading to subsequent annihilation at the hustings. As such, the AAP had the choice of either inducing BJP or Congress leaders to join, or find some newcomer with the necessary credentials.

With Col Kothiyal, it has not done too badly. He has an exemplary record in several areas, exhibiting a rare versatility. At the same time, he will need considerable support from the AAP central leadership to play the often very dirty game of politics. AAP appeals to the urban underclass, those who resent the entitlements of the better-off sections. These potential voters want a ‘share’ of the goodies without having to pay for them. The freebie approach has worked well in Delhi; will it have an impact on a society for which backbreaking hard work is a way of life? There is also the hope that the state’s large number of ex-service personnel, as well as those still in service, may be attracted by the prospect of having one of their own head the state. Considering the fact that the ‘nationalist’ vote largely goes to the BJP, it should be worried by the number who could fall for the bait. AAP, however, needs more than just to spoil the game for the other parties to achieve the success that could lead to power. Is there enough of the resentment among the voters that is required for a major upset? That seems somewhat unlikely.