It took some time but the Congress finally got its act together and reconstituted its Uttarakhand unit, following the imbalance created by stalwart Indira Hridayesh’s death. Given the circumstances, it hasn’t done too bad a job. Pritam Singh was the only legislator with the stature to become Leader of the Opposition. Although the effort was made to find an alternative, there was none. Analysts are of the opinion that the two major factions under Harish Rawat and Pritam Singh have been sufficiently assuaged. Former CM Harish Rawat, as the head of the Campaign Committee, is being ‘projected’ as the ‘chief ministerial face’, although there is no unanimity on that. Having been made the head of the manifesto committee for the fourth time, veteran Navprabhat has declared it is time someone else did the job for a change. He is obviously miffed at not being given his due, as are some others, such as former state president Kishore Upadhyay and, reportedly, Dharchula MLA Harish Dhami.
The focus, of course, was on balancing the ‘Brahmin’ and ‘Rajput’ constituencies, as well as the Kumaon and Garhwal regions. The plains have been somewhat ignored, probably in the belief that it is better to have a solid front in one part than be scattered everywhere. The Muslim votebank seems to have been sidelined, in the expectation perhaps that it would not be voting BJP anyway. Possibly, when it comes to distributing tickets, this shortcoming will be remedied.
Having been decimated in the last assembly election, the Congress will be worried about the new ‘challenge’ posed by the Aam Aadmi Party, which is more likely to cut into its support base than that of the BJP’s. All it needs is for Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM to descend on the state to completely rewrite the equations. The best hope is that the BJP will suffer a meltdown for some reason so that there are rich pickings for them.
There are, of course, several emotive issues that are emerging in anticipation of the elections. These include the Devasthanam Board, a recently resurrected land law demand, and the usual inflation and unemployment concerns. While newbie AAP and the UKD would be happy to latch on to them, the more mainstream parties will be chary about making promises difficult to keep, particularly as these could put the economy in a tailspin. The best prediction at the present would be an improvement in the opposition’s tally, but not quite enough to form the government.