Uttarakhand is among the few states in the country where the Congress remains
a major player, even though its presence in the Assembly is only a little more than symbolic. The opportunistic targeting of the state by AAP, however, threatens even its position as the binary alternative to the presently dominant BJP. Only the elections will provide clarity on which sections of the electorate could support the populism of the emergent force, but present indications are that these would likely be from the Congress support base, particularly in the plains.
While the BJP, despite its large committed voter base is not taking anything for granted and has addressed what it considered to be shortcomings in its government, the Congress remains comatose, unable even to find an alternative to the late Indira Hridayesh as Leader of the Opposition. It is all being left to the ‘High Command’ that is already overcome by chronic indecision. Not having any direct knowledge of Uttarakhand politics, the Gandhis are dependent on old hands such as Harish Rawat, who have been tried, tested and found inadequate for the task. (Rawat is still trying to resurrect his fortunes instead of helping fresh talent to emerge.)
There is also talk about a ‘collective leadership’ approach, but that is just an acknowledgement of failure. The factional leaders are by no means going to make way for a new leadership in the manner that those in the BJP have done. The established leaders will continue with their caste and regional politics to ensure their hold over a few constituencies. This is why leaders like Navprabhat, who have the smarts to articulate the party’s cause, remain ineligible for any major role.
The Congress should learn from AAP in that politics is about projecting an ideology. AAP panders unashamedly to the marginalised, those on the social periphery. Their votes, traditionally, have gone to parties that provide ‘direct benefits’. It used to be liquor and cash, now it is freebies from the public exchequer. All the Congress has is the well past expiry date ‘charisma’ of the ‘first family’. The repeated requests of the ‘group of 23’ – the few surviving ideologues of a bygone era – that an alternative worldview is presented to BJP’s ‘Hindutva’ are deliberately ignored. In that context, it would not be wrong to say that the coming electoral contest in Uttarakhand will be between the Congress and AAP for second place.