By Arun Pratap Singh
Dehradun, 23 May: Back to back clean sweeps in the parliamentary polls for the BJP is not only unprecedented in the short history of Uttarakhand, but the margin of vote share that the BJP has managed this time will be a major challenge for the Congress to overcome in the near future. Politics in the past 19 years of statehood of Uttarakhand has seen several parties, including the BSP, SP and UKD in the contest, but it has remained mainly centred around the BJP and the Congress. Given this fact, the difference in the vote share between the BJP and Congress has risen sharply between the last parliamentary elections and the current parliamentary elections. In the 2004 general elections, BJP had secured a vote share of 41 percent, winning 3 out of 5 seats. Congress had won 1 seat while the one remaining seat was won by Rajendra Kumar Badi of SP. Congress had a vote share of 38 percent, but only one seat in 2004. However, the Congress performed very impressively in 2009 winning all the five seats and securing a vote share of 43 percent. This, when, the state was being ruled by the BJP with BC Khanduri as the CM. As a result, this poor performance by the BJP led to a revolt against Khanduri who ultimately had to go.
In the 2014 general polls, voters swung to the other extreme, ensuring the BJP won on all the five seats and that too with a very impressive vote share of 55 percent. The win, though impressive, was not surprising since a clear Modi wave was working in the country. Political pundits had then termed this vote share of the BJP as its peak voting share from where it could only come down.
Continuing its impressive performance in the current elections, the BJP however achieved a vote share of 62 percent, which is the highest ever. The Congress on the other hand has never crossed 43 percent of vote share in Uttarakhand. This is an alarm bell for the Congress, point out political observers. Having seen the exit of its tall leaders like Satpal Maharaj, Vijay Bahuguna, Harak Singh Rawat and Yashpal Arya, the Congress is left with a very depleted leadership line-up. The observers blame Harish Rawat for this vacuum and point out that all of these leaders had left the party and switched over to BJP because of sharp differences with him. They further claim that Rawat continues to have big differences with the current leadership in the party. Harish Rawat does not have a cordial relationship with veteran party leader and erstwhile number two in the ND Tiwari Government, Indira Hridayesh. He also has developed differences with PCC Chief Pritam Singh, as well as former PCC Chief Kishore Upadhyay. It may be recalled that Singh and Upadhyay, both, owed their elevation as PCC Chiefs to Harish Rawat who had impressed upon the Congress High Command to elevate first Upadhyay. Once the differences with him could be reconciled, he was replaced by Singh. Secondly, according to the sources within the Congress, Harish Rawat places greater importance on his own team of people as against the party cadre for the election campaign and this angers the party cadre, which goes into hibernation. This, they claim happened in the current elections, too.
Given the current scenario, the party cadre seems to be having low morale and this was seen in the campaign for the current parliamentary elections. On the other hand, BJP has focused on strengthening the party from the booth level upwards and the results are evident in the form of its impressive performance.
Of course, the political observers also point out that people of Uttarakhand have nationalistic thinking and that is the reason why so many families from Uttarakhand send their sons to join the armed forces. The Balakot air strikes by the Indian forces in retaliation to the Pulwama terror attack sponsored by Pakistan built up a nationalist environment in the country and played a significant role in BJP’s win from Uttarakhand too. Congress was unable to come up with an effective strategy to counter the advantage the BJP had as a result of the air strikes.