Uttarakhand’s 21st Formation Day celebrations had less to do with where the state’s at in development terms and more to do with the coming assembly elections. Political parties, including the ruling BJP, are trying desperately to position themselves favourably according to their reading of the public mood. While, over the years, elections have developed into a two-party contest between the BJP and the Congress, it does not imply that other parties have not received support. It is just that MLAs of the BSP and UKD have been more than willing to jump ship in favour of whoever is in power. People now feel that, if the legislator is anyway going to defect, might as well vote for the party likely to be in power.
The latest challenger is the Aam Aadmi Party, which is hoping to harvest the votes of those disillusioned with ‘traditional’ politics, and the marginalised that have no stakes in the present dispensation. The Samajwadi Party, which has done well in some parts of the plains, has also announced its intention to contest all seventy seats. Considering the fact that all these define themselves as ‘secular’ parties, much of the harm will be inflicted on the Congress.
While the focus has been on grandstanding and personalities, there is a substantial lack of perspective on what the BJP has done or failed to achieve. It must not be forgotten that this is all in the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic and the battle against it. By changing Chief Ministers, the BJP has acknowledged its mistakes and is now coasting ahead with a leader that has found quick acceptability. Congress is still struggling on that score, as Harish Rawat continues to hog the limelight, uncaring of the baggage he carries.
It would be good if there were some facts and figures, as well as a vision of the future. The latest argument regarding Gairsain, for instance, indicates that – in many ways – the mindset has not kept up with events. There is a limit to how much the narrative can be borrowed from what has worked in other states – the conditions here are different. Very few politicians of any party have exhibited any understanding of how development should take place in specific constituencies. Unfortunately, the hard questions are not being asked by the electorate that would take the matter beyond just politicking. There is still time, though, for this to be done.