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Uphill task for AAP in U’khand

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By ARUN PRATAP SINGH
DEHRADUN, 20 Aug: Delhi Chief Minister and National
President of AAP, Arvind Kejriwal has announced that
his party will field candidates for all seats in the 2022
assembly elections in Uttarakhand. In the past, the AAP has contested the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections here, as well as the Municipal Corporation
elections, but not been able to create any impression so far. It, therefore, remains to be seen to what extent the party shall be able to compete with well-established national parties like BJP and Congress in the upcoming elections. Political analysts believe that the path for AAP in Uttarakhand is not going to be rosy at all. Earlier, too, other parties here have made serious efforts to challenge both the national parties ever since the
formation of the separate state but have failed miserably. Before discussing the prospects of the AAP in the next assembly elections, it would be pertinent to have a look at how other parties have performed in the state in the twenty years of its existence. The major parties that have been politically active here on a serious basis are Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Samajwadi Party (SP) and Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKD). The interim assembly constituted here after the
formation of the state in November 2000 was represented by elected members of the state assembly
and state legislative council of undivided Uttar Pradesh.
Munna Singh Chauhan, Ambrish Kumar and Ram Singh Saini represented the Samajwadi Party, Qazi Moinuddin and Isham Singh represented the BSP. UKD was not represented. In 2002, SP could not win a single seat due
to its anti-state image, but BSP emerged as a strong party due to the large number of Dalit votes in Haridwar and Udham Singh Nagar. It had won seven seats. The Uttarakhand Kranti Dal also won four seats, opening its account in the state. The Congress emerged as the
single largest party here despite the fact that its position in Uttar Pradesh was in rapid continuous decline. Even three independents won this election. By the year 2007, the seats of UKD decreased from four to
three while the BSP increased from seven to eight. The BJP emerged as the single largest party but failed to get a clear majority on its own and had to seek the support of UKD to form the government. By 2012, the BSP’s
performance had also deteriorated markedly from eight straight to three. The central leadership of the BSP
failed to bring stability within the party unit here and many leaders were expelled from the party due to internal conflicts while some of them joined the Congress on their own. The UKD could barely manage to win just one seat and the legislator joined the Congress Government despite the party’s opposition.
People of Uttarakhand are considered to have a national
perspective on politics and hence no regional party could carve a niche place for itself in state politics. In the 2017 elections, the BJP also strengthened its hold in Haridwar and Udham Singh Nagar by gaining major
support from the Dalits and, therefore, the BSP and UKD were completely eliminated. Now that AAP has announced its decision to contest all the 70 seats in the upcoming assembly elections in the state, it will be interesting to see how it will be able to produce strong
candidates for so many seats. Unless AAP has strong candidates, who are able to pose a tough challenge to the BJP or Congress candidates in the upcoming elections in the state, it will prove to be a very daunting task to create a place for itself. The fact is that AAP has no national level face even at national level politics except Kejriwal. And Kejriwal is not going to come here
and contest elections himself. In the initial phase, AAP had some recognised and respected faces at the national level, but they were thrown out from the party due to differences with Kejriwal. As long as AAP does
not put forward at least one big and popular face in Uttarakhand as a CM candidate and some other major
candidates in the assembly constituencies, its challenge cannot be considered serious. Till the 2017 elections, the vote difference between BJP and Congress in the assembly elections did not exceed two to three per cent. But by winning more than 46 percent votes, the BJP had managed to widen this gap to about 13-14 percent between itself and the Congress in the 2017 elections. In the election of 2022, AAP’s effort will be to get these 13-14 percent votes. In case it manages to do so, it may manage to win a handful of seats. Any such scenario is more likely to harm Congress than BJP. But to be able do all this, AAP will not only have to gear up from now but also have to take an early lead by announcing some faces soon so that they can make some inroads among the people over the next year and more. In the plains of Haridwar and Udham Singh Nagar, where once the BSP was strong, it might be relatively easier to make a dent, but the big challenge will be to bring together Dalit-Muslim voters. This combination of Dalit-Muslim-OBC vote bank was dented heavily by the
BJP as it had been able to garner significant support among the Dalits and OBC voters. The last time the
Muslim vote was garnered by the Congress, while a large number of Dalit votes fell in the BJP’s bag. The Congress also lacks several big faces in state politics as some senior leaders like Dr Indira Hridayesh are on the last leg of their political innings due to age factor
while big names like Vijay Bahuguna, Satpal Maharaj, Harak Singh and Yashpal Arya had switched loyalty to BJP. Despite this, Congress still has a leader of stature
like Harish Rawat and several others who have already contested one or more assembly elections, which AAP
seems to lack. Speaking to Garhwal Post AAP state spokesperson Ravindra Anand claimed that many big leaders of BJP and Congress were in touch with him, but since the elections are still far away, this claim does not seem to hold. It will certainly be an uphill task for AAP or any new political set up to be able to climb the hills in Uttarakhand politics at least by the 2022 assembly elections.