The first list of candidates for the coming polls in Uttarakhand, released by the Congress late last night, does not have any surprises and quite a few disappointments. Primarily, it has not had the courage to put up candidates who have kept the party flag flying in the past five years. Too many of those who had gone into coma after the 2017 defeat have been resurrected based on their past reputations and supposed hold over the electorate. This will, without a doubt, hit the Congress hard. Party workers are bound to wonder how an Anukriti Gusain is a shoo-in, while the many who struggled have been unable to find a place on the list.
This either indicates a lack of young talent in the party, or a belief that the party’s chances are poor. Nobody wishes to take the blame for defeat by experimenting with ‘meritocracy’. The more cynical among analysts will claim that there are just a few in the party, anyway, that have the wherewithal to contest an election. Being active in the field means nothing without a fat bank account. Perhaps the party should have greater faith in the perspicacity of the electorate.
The seats that have not yet been declared are obviously the even more contentious ones. Despite his almost single-handed efforts on behalf of the party, former CM Harish Rawat seems unsure of where to try his luck. There clearly is a gap between the people’s perception of his popularity and that of sponsored opinion polls. Having been thrashed in the last elections from two disparate seats, there is no guarantee he can find a secure launch pad. If he does, getting elected may require that he focus on that single seat at the cost of the statewide party campaign. It is going to be a tough choice because the BJP will train its biggest guns on particular that contest. It would truly be an irony if the prodigal Harak Singh Rawat is given a ticket and wins, and Harish is left out in the cold!
There is no doubt that the party has wasted the past few years by maintaining the status-quo rather than overhauling itself. The failure is undoubtedly that of the central leadership; particularly Rahul Gandhi, who exercises veto powers but provides very little actual leadership. The Congress will likely pay the price for this on 14 February.