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Preliminary Stirrings

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Three BJP MLAs have expressed unhappiness with alleged sabotage by party members during the assembly elections – Sanjay Gupta, Swami Yatishwaranand and Harbhajan Singh Cheema (his son is the party candidate). This could be because they anticipate defeat in the polls and are passing the buck on to others rather than take responsibility for losing the voters’ confidence. Gupta has openly blamed State Party President Madan Kaushik for having undermined his campaign. Some media persons have pointed out that there is bigger politics behind the charges as these MLAs are considered close to Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami. So, it could also be maneuvering by party factions to secure ministerial posts after the results are announced.

There is no doubt that the four regions of the state – the plains and hills of Garhwal, and those of Kumaon – will need adequate representation should the BJP win. The power structure within the BJP is relatively new, as past combinations were jettisoned with the ouster of former CM Trivendra Singh Rawat. Considerable deft handling will be required to balance the equations not just between the new power centres, but also the old and the new leadership. Victory and an abundance of leaders will pose quite another challenge for the BJP, despite the fact that the chief ministerial face is already decided (depending, of course, on his winning from Khatima). That the issues are already out in the open – quite unusual for the BJP – means that there is sufficient time for the matter to be resolved through negotiation or fiat.

On the other hand, the Congress has few hands to play. It will require nothing short of a small miracle to win a majority. In fact, another stint in the opposition with a larger number of MLAs will give it a good opportunity to rebuild its team and groom its younger leaders. Former CM Harish Rawat’s domination and the meekness displayed by other leaders are inexplicable. This is possibly yet another example of the much spoken of disconnect between the party high command and the grassroots. Any revival of the party’s fortunes, now, merely because of public disaffection with the BJP would not necessarily prove a good thing for the future. The Congress needs internal revitalisation and it will not come with resurrection of the old.

Given past experience, party hopping by disgruntled MLAs also remains a possibility that may distort the people’s mandate. Hopefully, it won’t come to that with a healthy margin for the victor.