What was expected to be a close fight, has turned into a sweep for the BJP in Uttarakhand.
In 2017, the BJP had won 56 of the 70 seats in the state, reducing the Congress to a mere 11. The party had polled 46.51 percent of the vote share, while the Congress’ secured 33 percent.
The Congress' biggest face this election – and the state's former chief minister from the party – Harish Rawat, also failed to win from the Lalkuan seat. In 2017 Rawat had contested from two seats – Haridwar (Rural) and Kichha – and lost both.
Losing this election might mean the end of Rawat's political career, according to some, especially with the leader speaking of retirement even during the campaign.
Despite its big win in Punjab, the AAP has failed to make any mark in the state, while the BSP and others also made a very nominal impact.
BJP's slogan of 'Abki baar, 60 paar (this time, 60 plus)’ worked for the BJP and along with it here are seven other big reasons for its dominant performance:
1. Factions Within The Congress Party
One of the biggest factors that worked against the Congress and in the BJP's favour were the internal rifts that developed within the grand old party. Harish Rawat being denied the ticket from his stronghold, Ramnagar, was the biggest example of this.
The Congress fielded the wrong candidates from the wrong seats. Almost 10 seats where the Congress could have won, were lost by a margin of under a thousand votes. A lack of political strategy in the distribution of tickets benefitted the BJP.
2. Harish Rawat – Riding Two Horses At The Same Time
Rawat is the Congress' most prominent face in Uttarakhan. But a lot of his energy was spent in firefighting in Punjab as the party's in-charge there.
He had been campaigning and working in the Ramnagar constituency hoping to contest from the same. But just before the elections he was asked to contest from Lalkuan where he did not have a significant influence, leading to a loss of both seats for the Congress.
A lack of focused efforts in Uttarakhand and the enforced abandonment of his constituency in Ramnagar contributed to Rawat's fall. And might also spell the end of his political career.
3. Dhami As The CM Face
The BJP change of their CM twice shortly before the elections was being touted as a move that might harm them. On the contrary, Pushkar Singh Dhami prevented the BJP's vote from going to the Congress and took away the dissatisfaction people felt towards Trivendra Singh Rawat.
Even though Dhami was a new face in Uttarakhand politics, and was not a crowd puller, he did not evoke much negativity, unlike his predecessors.
The "double-engine" narrative and the "Modi-factor" also worked in Dhami's favour.
Dhami may have actually lost his seat in Khatima, but having him at the helm helped the BJP win the state.
4. Winning The Women Voters
The BJP was successful in capturing women voters in the state. Exit poll data also reflects that a substantial percentage of women voters chose the BJP over Congress.
Women and household centric welfare schemes played a huge role in this. Improving institutional delivery and care; increasing access to cooking gas even in remote, hilly areas; Kanyadhan – the financial aid given to girls; were all policies that directly translated into votes for the BJP.
5. Dealing With The COVID Crisis
The work done by the central government for Uttarakhand during the pandemic received a positive response. Vaccination even in the most remote and inaccessible areas in the hills was perceived as a feat of the BJP and fed further into strengthening the "double engine" narrative.
When reverse migration happened and people returned to their homes and villages in Uttarakhand, free ration, work under MNREGA, and even just basic sustenance for most, translated directly into votes.
6. Farmers Protest, Kumbh Mela – NOT Election Issues
The farmers' protests in Delhi did not leave Uttarakhand untouched. From the state's agricultural belt in Udham Singh Nagar, Haridwar and parts of Nainital, the farmers had protested and many had even participated in the tractor rallies in Delhi.
Despite this, the protests and the issues at play in them in no way became an election issue. Big faces from the BJP and Congress – Rawat and Dhami – were both contesting from agricultural constituents, Lalkuan and Khatima, respectively. But the farmers' protests found no mention during the campaigning and also this anger never translated into votes.
The Kumbh Mela fiasco during the pandemic that received international flak also fizzled out. The poor management of the situation by the BJP did not reflect poorly on them, certainly not enough for people to vote for the issue.
7. Repealing The Devasthanam Board Act
Priests, which are the BJP's strongest vote bank, had at one point shown dissatisfaction towards the party, and could have proved a thorn in their side. They were protesting against the Devasthanam Board Act for over two years and had even said that they would politically withdraw their support from the party.
The BJP decided to repeal the Act in December 2021, bringing these voters back and returning the management and administration of over 50 temples, including the Char Dham shrines to priests, preventing a possible loss of this crucial vote bank.