The BJP is suffering some kind of a meltdown in Uttarakhand. Every day brings evidence of this phenomenon. The latest is Cabinet Minister Subodh Uniyal’s statement that the late ND Tiwari was the state’s best Chief Minister to date. This follows up on ongoing internal turmoil, with a bunch of MLAs protesting against the ‘uncooperative’ attitude of the bureaucrats – the message sought to be communicated being the pain they feel at not being able to ‘serve the people’ as a consequence. Everybody is basically preparing for the coming assembly elections in his or her own way.
Subodh Uniyal’s statement is being interpreted as an indirect criticism of the present Chief Minister’s performance and, also, a message to the Congress about a possible ‘ghar wapasi’. Former Chief Minister Harish Rawat, always quick to pick up on such opportunities, has declared the party’s doors are open to the ‘deserving’. Having seen the large scale desertion before the last elections in the state, anything is possible. It would seem that MLAs that are certain of victory in their constituencies can remain perpetually in power by shifting loyalties come election time!
The clumsy management of the large flock by the BJP’s state leadership has not helped, either. Every day brings evidence of poor image and perception management by people who do not seem to have an idea of the people’s psyche. State President Bansidhar Bhagat’s recent statement on the Modi factor was badly articulated and gleefully misinterpreted by the opposition. All of this is reflecting badly on the state government, as people are rightly wondering what its performance must be like if its own people are raising doubts.
While there is no doubt that ND Tiwari stood head and shoulders above local politicians in terms of ability, it must not be forgotten that he had decades of experience as Chief Minister of UP and as Union Minister with important portfolios. Also, it must not be forgotten that, after his stint, the Congress ended up losing the election! So, clearly there is a gap between actual performance and public perception! There are other factors involved, too, such as the Kedarnath floods that undid another Congress Government. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic might be doing the same for the present regime. This is the time not to be too clever, but to exhibit assertive leadership. Lessons must be learned from past experience and mistakes avoided. It should not be too difficult as there does not seem to be much of a political alternative at the present.