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Leadership Change

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The Congress had done the right thing by handing over leadership of its Uttarakhand state unit to Karan Mahra. Yashpal Arya is to be Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly and Bhuwan Chand Kapri, the Deputy Leader. With this the party has shown its gratitude to the voters of constituencies that stood by it in the recent assembly elections, even though the area these legislators represent is geographically confined to just a part of Kumaon.

There is no doubt that, for all the heartburn, Ganesh Godiyal as State Party President and Pritam Singh as Leader of the Opposition failed to deliver. In the case of Pritam Singh, in particular, the long stint he has served as a legislator did not raise him to the level of performance that was expected of him. Both these worthies were overshadowed by the self-serving histrionics of former CM Harish Rawat. As a result, the party’s electoral pitch became a narrative focused on Rawat’s comeback, rather than the real issues that could have countered the incumbent BJP.

It is being said that selecting the three important leaders from one area would dampen the party’s chances in the rest of Uttarakhand, particularly Garhwal and much of the hills. However, armies do need strongholds to foray out of, instead of being scattered in the field. Mahra and Kapri are relatively young and will pose the ideal counter to the youthful appeal of Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami.

The generational shift, however, has been limited somewhat by the choice of Yashpal Arya. Quite obviously, the party has chosen to overlook his political opportunism by accepting that he has enough personal clout with the electorate to win irrespective of the party he represents. And to get his son elected at the same time! The caste factor also fits in as a trump card for the future.

The decision was bound to cause dissatisfaction, particularly among those displaced. Pritam Singh has taken umbrage to allegations by High Command office-bearers that factionalism undid the party’s prospects in the elections. He has asked for proof of this and promised to resign if it is proven true. His ‘courtesy’ call on CM Dhami late on Sunday also led to much speculation on his future actions. No matter how it pans out, the Congress will have a difficult time adjusting to the new normal, mostly because it still has to work out an ideological counter to the BJP’s popularity among the electorate.