The state government is all set to trashcan the ‘Transfer Act’ passed during the brief Khanduri regime just before the recent assembly elections. This was almost inevitable, because much of what was done at that time was with an eye on the hustings. There can be no doubt that the amended ‘Lokayukta Act’ is also going to die a sorry death. The earlier decision by the Nishank Government to form four new districts is also being revisited and will only see light of day with the imprimatur of the Congress party.
It comes as a surprise that both the national parties have, of late, begun to execute well-planned strategies to further their political interests in the state. This means that, at some level, there is underway an application of mind. The Khanduri pre-poll blitzkrieg was well-chalked out, implemented step by step to achieve a specific objective. The present regime’s actions, too, have just as much clarity. Apart from demolishing what remain of the BJP initiatives, the Congress is also executing a plan to mop up the fringe votes, the lack of which led to a shortfall in its mandate.
Confident that it has a rock-solid vote base among the majority that will not be seduced under any circumstances, as evident from the Kotdwar result, the party is now seeking to actively pursue ‘minority’ votes with an aggression never before seen in Uttarakhand. The calculations have been worked out, it seems, in light of two very important elections to come – the one that would find Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna a seat in the Assembly, and the one that will fill his place in the Lok Sabha. The ongoing pandering to the minority would clearly imply that Bahuguna intends to contest from a seat with a higher percentage of Muslim voters and which has returned a Congress candidate. (The initial talk of ‘persuading’ a BJP MLA to vacate a seat has been short-lived.) It would also be important to give the vacating MLA something substantial in return.
The Vikasnagar constituency fits the bill almost perfectly. Senior leader Navprabhat, who has significantly not been given a ministerial position, would be a perfect candidate for Bahuguna’s Tehri seat if he were to resign as MLA. His father was an MP before him in the same catchment area. Considering his skills as a legislator, he would be an asset to the Lok Sabha. Also, even more importantly, he would have two quick shots at the seat – one in the by-election that would result from Bahuguna’s resignation and, two, when the General Elections take place in 2014. (Bahuguna’s recent comment that he would have liked the people of Sahaspur – another constituency with a large Muslim population – to elect a Congress MLA because, then, he would have stood from there, was a red herring. How would Aryendra Sharma have been compensated?)
Maybe, local units of the Congress and BJP are in a shambles when it comes to governance and administration, but clearly High Command strategising has reached considerable levels of sophistication. One looks forward eagerly to the BJP riposte to the ongoing maneuvering. With Congress having played the minority card in the confidence that polarisation is unlikely in the state, can the BJP be expected to field Narendra Modi, here, at a critical moment? Even better, could it come up with an acceptable Muslim candidate who would upend the well-laid plans of the Congress and also reduce the sting of the Kotdwar defeat? Interesting days lie ahead.