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U’khand: BJP has edge in close contest

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Garhwal Post survey based on opinion of political analysts & journalists all over the state

By ARUN PRATAP SINGH AND TEAM GARHWAL POST

DEHRADUN, 9 Feb: Team Garhwal Post recently spoke to senior journalists, political analysts and common citizens in every district in an intensive exercise to gauge the possible outcome of the state assembly polls. Let us begin with some basic facts in on Uttarakhand. The foremost point to consider is the fact that, in Uttarakhand, the size of the constituencies is rather small in comparison to most other states with the exception of Goa and some North Eastern states. Hence, the fight is usually close and the margins of wins or losses are rather small. Secondly, so far, the government has changed in every state election in Uttarakhand. However, if the current trends available from the discussions the Team Garhwal Post have had with people from every district, representing many spheres, this trend may well change this time. Political analysts point out that, since the formation of Uttarakhand, there had been a trend of change even in the Parliamentary Elections. For example, in the 2004 Parliamentary Elections, BJP had won 3 seats while Congress could win only 1 seat while the Samajwadi Party had managed to win one. However, in the 2009 Elections, when there was a UPA Government led by Manmohan Singh at the Centre, the people in Uttarakhand gave a landslide victory to Congress and it won all the 5 seats. The BJP was simply wiped out. This happened when, in Uttarakhand, there was a popular BJP Government led by BC Khanduri. In 2014, however, it was Modi all the way and Congress was wiped out with BJP winning all the 5 seats. It may be pertinent to point out here that BJP had some big names contesting Parliamentary Elections such as BC Khanduri, Bhagat Singh Koshyari and RP Nishank. BJP was favoured heavily even in the state assembly elections in 2017 with Congress losing power and BJP gaining a landslide victory with 57 seats. In 2019, the people in Uttarakhand for the first time repeated the result of 2014 with BJP winning all the 5 seats, although the big names were missing except for Nishank. Koshyari and Khanduri had retired from active politics and were replaced with relatively lightweight candidates in the form of Ajay Bhatt and Tirath Singh Rawat. Team Garhwal Post spoke to some senior journalists from every district in order to gauge the political situation. They pointed out that despite many shortcomings in the performance of the BJP Government in Uttarakhand, it is a fact that the double engine government had performed and, in the past 5 years, the state had seen unprecedented development of infrastructure. Despite shortcomings, they felt that even the Corona pandemic was reasonably dealt with by the BJP Government and the health infrastructure saw some significant improvement. As against this, there were some significant factors that go against the BJP government in the state. There is a strong anti-incumbency prevailing against many sitting MLAs though not necessarily against the State Government. While the BJP has changed about 20 candidates, many weak candidates have been repeated too under various political compulsions. However, given the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi continuing in Uttarakhand, this shortcoming may get offset to a certain extent by the people voting for the party rather than the candidate. They also point out that BJP has a committed cadre and despite some rebel candidates in the fray, BJP supporters usually vote for the party rather than candidates. The anti-incumbency factor to some extent has also been offset by the change of guard in Uttarakhand. The young Pushkar Singh Dhami on account of his straightforward approach and easy accessibility and the large number of decisions that he took as CM in the past 5 months has managed to create a positive image of himself and, therefore, for his party, too. Congress has a strong leader in the form of Harish Rawat, who despite advancing age remains the most popular face in the party. He is also leading the party’s campaign and has prevailed over his rivals within the party in ensuring tickets to more of his loyalists as compared to the rivals. But, still, there is a strong opposition within the Congress to his candidature for the post of CM and this is the reason why he has not been declared the CM candidate by the party. Not only this, it also remains a fact that he was the sitting CM in 2017 when Congress was reduced to just 11 seats out of 70 and he had lost from both the seats he contested, one each from Garhwal region (Haridwar Rural) and the Kumaon region (Kichha). Most surveys conducted on behalf of several mainstream news channels have shown him to be the most popular choice as CM but still showed BJP as the more favoured party. It remains to be seen how he manages to lead the party without actually being declared the CM candidate. In the BJP, the picture is clear with Dhami being the CM face. In the 2017 elections, BJP had managed almost a clean sweep in several districts including Dehradun and Haridwar and even in Udham Singh Nagar, which had led to the other parties like BSP and SP being wiped out totally. This was despite the fact that, in the past, BSP and SP had considerable presence in Haridwar and Udham Singh Nagar districts. The political analysts claim that Haridwar or US Nagar were never strongholds of the Congress and unless the BJP faces strong antiincumbency in these two districts, it is unlikely that Congress will sweep the polls there. Parties like BSP and SP and now, even AAP, may play spoilsport for Congress due to their renewed efforts towards resurgence. All the same, the contest in Haridwar and Udham Singh Nagar is likely to be the most interesting one and if BJP is able to retain considerable influence there, then it is likely to sail through in the polls even if it loses a certain number of seats in these two districts. In Dehradun, the fight is certainly clear, with Congress having a clear edge in Chakrata with the prospect of a very, very close contest in Rajpur and a good fight in Sahaspur, Doiwala and Rishikesh. However, as per the opinions gathered by the Team Garhwal Post, the BJP still holds the edge in majority of the seats including Vikasnagar, Dharampur, Dehradun Cantt, Mussoorie and Raipur. In Pauri, the fight is closer this time but BJP still holds an edge in the majority of seats. According to the opinions gathered by Team Garhwal Post, BJP holds the edge in Lansdowne, Yamkeshwar, Pauri, with close fight expected in Srinagar between Dhan Singh Rawat and Ganesh Godiyal, the PCC Chief, and in Kotdwar between Ritu Khanduri and Surendra Singh Negi. In Nainital, the fight is reported to be close in the majority of seats with BJP having a slight edge in some of them and a close fight in the rest. Congress holds the edge in Haldwani according to the opinions gathered by Team Garhwal Post. In Tehri, BJP has the edge in Tehri, Dhanolti and Narendra Nagar and there is close fight in the rest. In Chamoli, BJP is reportedly ahead in two seats with a fight in the third. In Rudraprayag, the BJP is reportedly leads in both the seats. As per the data gathered by the team on the overall picture of the state, BJP may win anything between 37 to 45 seats and the Congress may come up with up to 20-29 seats. AAP may manage to win just one seat if at all. At the same time, others including the BSP or the independents may win from 3 to 5 seats. The final results will however depend on the scale of polling as the constituencies are small, which has potential to tilt the results.