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Warning Signals


An independent candidate, Gaurav Goyal, has been elected Mayor of Roorkee, while the ruling BJP’s candidate came in third. Goyal is a rebel from the BJP – and there is talk there might even be a homecoming – but this is yet another signal that not all is well with the party in the state. As so often mentioned, earlier, state and local level leaders of the BJP are not doing enough to expand the space created by the conservative politics of the top leadership. They seem happy to believe that the Prime Minister’s charisma and the Hindutva plank alone will help them win elections. This betrays their lack of understanding on what the party’s politics signifies in the larger perspective. There are many elements of right-of-centre ideologies that appeal to the people and must be built upon if firm foundations are to be established in a traditionally leftist political environment. This is further complicated by over- dependence on caste based calculations. This is certainly the case in Uttarakhand, where the BJP has become complacent about its perceived hold on the upper castes. All of this results in disregard for the basics of political grassroots activism and, in the case of governments, delivery of services. This trend has been seen consistently in the state’s panchayat and municipal polls. Despite its claims to be a grassroots party, the BJP has been unable to identify enough number of winning candidates within its ranks. Its only consolation is that the rival Congress has not been able to take advantage. The preference for a larger number of independents by the voters means they are open to ‘alternatives’ and not satisfied with the ruling party to the desired level. This creates potential for mobilisation of this votebank by some sudden upsurge of feeling over an issue – as happened in the case of AAP in Delhi. The independent vote relapses over a period of time into traditional non-political expression, but it can upset the apple cart at crucial times. Ruling parties should be working consistently on keeping the impact of this on politics at sub- optimal level, while the opposition should be scouring it for future leaders. The bypoll in Pithoragarh will be another test of the residual goodwill among the people for the present dispensation. The BJP maybe counting on the sympathy wave to obtain a victory, but it should closely examine the result to see what the deeper verdict is. If a downward slide catches momentum, it might become unstoppable by the time the next assembly elections arrive.