Amid Regime Changes & Growth Issues, Who’ll Win Uttarakhand Polls?
As Uttarakhand goes to polls on 15 February, here’s a wrap up of all you need to know about the state.
‘’Uttarakhand is known for its fluid leadership, regimes change after every five years. Although the lack of options is quite in our faces, growth has taken place only because of this constant change of regimes since the past 17 years. I hope the voters give a chance to a new regime as this will pave the way for growth and development’’
– Ramesh Kautiyal, social activist, Devprayag
Uttarakhand has witnessed three Vidhan Sabha elections in the past 17 years since it was carved out as a separate state. Ever since its emergence as a new state, it has never seen a stable government. The presence of two popular national parties and lack of alternatives for the voters can be pointed as the reason behind this trend.
Uttarakhand politics has been exposed to major changes and volatility. Several Congress leaders rebelled against their party and sought refuge with the BJP. The ruling party provided tickets to 14 new converts for this election. The Congress’ internal affairs are also rumoured to have been experiencing some turmoil.
On 1 and 2 February, around 1,000 Congress and BJP leaders exchanged sides. The Congress gave tickets to seven BJP workers and two BSP leaders.
Voters are aware that party rebellion is a heated political topic. The voters have an eye for such political flip-flops led by whimsical leaders. After gaining individual statehood, the region has witnessed such arbitrary political developments.
Voting trends in Uttarakhand are a bit different. Since they vote over local issues, Independent candidates are given more preference. But in big constituencies, national issues also hold importance. It is possible that the rebel game may backfire in these major constituencies.Narottam Khanduri, Journalist
Understanding U’khand Politics
It is crucial to understand the equation between the hills and plains in order to get a good grip over Uttarakhand politics.
The state is divided between Kumaon and Garhwal. In these elections, Garhwal seems to be more inclined towards the BJP, if the Independent candidates don’t hinder their progress. In Kumaon, the electorate seems to be in favour of the Congress.
Harak Singh Rawat, a BJP candidate from Kotwar, has been targeting the Rajput votes. However, the area’s current legislator and Health Minister Surendra Singh Negi has a stronghold in this region. His popular stature led to Chief Minister BC Khanduri’s defeat during the 2012 Vidhan Sabha elections.
Chaubattakhal is another political hot seat as former MP and BJP leader Satpal Maharaj is in the fray. Congress leader Rajpal Singh Bisht is contesting against him.
From Yamkeshwar, BC Khanduri’s daughter Ritu is the BJP candidate.
Congress leader Harish Rawat’s popularity in the Kumaon region will be favourable for the Congress. What works for the 70-year-old veteran leader is the said emotional factor.
In regions like Haridwar and Udhamsingh Nagar, the results might be decisive. The party that wins more seats will have a high chance to secure the majority in the state. Haridwar has 11 seats while Udham Singh Nagar has ten.
The BSP might ruin the game here. If the BSP wins more seats in Haridwar, the Congress will be at a loss, while the BJP will be at advantage. Sensing this as a plausible situation, Rawat has already taken precautions and is contesting from the Haridwar constituency. In 2002 Vidhan Sabha elections, the BSP won seven seats, eight in 2008 and three in 2012.Akhileshwar Prasad
Of Autos and Rickshaws: Campaigning in Full Swing
As the 2017 Uttarakhand polls begin on 15 February, the future course of the state’s politics will be determined on 11 March. The state is already witnessing a heavy wave of campaigning. Although the season of February-March is considered a dry season for auto-rickshaw drivers, elections have been a big boost to them. Major parties, including the Congress and the BJP, have deployed publicity vans in the state.
The Quint spoke to a few of them.
Key election issues:
- Illegal mining
State voters focus more on local issues. Infrastructural development has been one of the main concerns that has plagued the state. Both the contesting parties do not seem to have a plan with regard to dealing with such problems. It is more about roads and construction. There is no discussion on employment, education or modern farming techniques which the state yearns for the most.
Hollow Promises of Development
In the last 17 years, the grain production in Uttarakhand has decreased by six percent and the barren land cover increased by 11 percent. Whereas in Himachal Pradesh, the crop production rose by 29 percent.
Uttarakhand has now turned 16. It needs special care for the next five years. Spiritual and adventure tourism will bring in some development. There will be job opportunities for the youth.PM Narendra Modi in Srinagar
15 February is the D-Day for Uttarakhand as people will cast their votes. Political rallies have now come to a halt. This state with 70 seats is all set to choose its new Chief Minister.
If the BJP and the Congress’ performance during these polls is dismal, the future government will have to depend on Independent candidates and the BSP.
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