Uttarakhand Elections: AAP intercepting a stiff BJP-Congress tussletext_fields
On January 8, as the Election Commission announced the dates for assembly elections in five states - Uttarakhand (UK), Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Manipur, and Punjab - it became clear that the 70 legislative assembly seats of UK will be going for election on February 14, with results being announced on March 10.
With close to one month left for polling in UK, political parties have begun campaigning to woo voters and ensure their victory in the state which has a precedent of changing government every 5 years. While the ruling BJP is trying hard to ensure that they win elections under the leadership of the chief minister (CM) Pushkar Singh Dhami, the Congress is betting on former CM Harish Rawat's name.
However, with the entry of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Trinamool Congress (TMC), who are expected to get the majority of the anti-BJP votes, the elections have become a battle among four parties for the first time.
With the majority of the exit polls predicting a strong battle between the BJP and the Congress, there are some who give an upper hand to the BJP. The exit poll conducted by ABP in collaboration with C-Voter predicted a neck-to-neck competition with the ruling BJP getting 31-37 seats and the Congress around 31-36 seats.
This survey shows a huge gain for the Congress party which currently has only 9 seats in the legislative assembly, while for the BJP which currently has 53 seats, this will be a huge setback. Not only this, but the survey also predicts the vote share of the BJP seeing a sharp decline with only 38.6% of people supporting them as compared to 46.5% during the 2017 assembly elections, while the Congress getting the support of 37.2% of people.
The survey also predicted Harish Singh Rawat as the most preferred candidate for the post of CM with 37% of the people favouring him, while the incumbent CM Pushkar Singh Dhami got the support of only 29% of the people.
For the ruling BJP, a suitable candidate for the post of chief minister has always been a challenge in Uttarakhand. In the past five years, the CM face has been changed thrice. While Trivendra Singh Rawat remained CM during 2017-2021, he was replaced by Tirath Singh Rawat who was again replaced by Pushkar Singh Dhami within five months of 2021.
The Congress also attacked BJP over this by launching a theme song titled 'teen tigada, kaam bigada' (implying too many cooks spoil the soup) and saying that 'people want a change in Uttarakhand and they are openly saying so'. However, there has been infighting within Congress as well and the party leadership has been trying its best to curb it, especially keeping in mind the stiff challenge posed by the BJP.
A few days back, Harish Rawat who seems unhappy with some of his own party members tweeted expressing his concern over the way the Congress was working in Uttarakhand. "The representatives of those on whose orders I have to swim are tying my hands and feet" he tweeted.
He was basically conveying his disregard for the way the All India Congress Committee (AICC) in-charge of Uttarakhand, Devendra Yadav was interfering in the matters in the state. This led to a tug-of-war between Harish Rawat and Devendra Yadav with the former complaining of his hands being tied while working and the latter trying to pander to other leaders who are in the list of Rawat's rivals in the state.
However, the central leadership immediately came into action and Harish Rawat was made the chairman of the campaign committee for the upcoming polls putting to rest all the speculations. Harish Rawat still continues to be the Congress's most prominent face in the state.
Apart from all the surveys showing a tight contest between the BJP and the Congress, another important factor is the rising vote share of AAP, which can seriously dent the hopes of Congress forming the government. From having a zero percentage vote share and almost negligible presence in 2017 to the exit polls showing AAP expected to get 13% votes and around 3 assembly seats in the upcoming elections, they have come a long way.
Although a vote share of 13% may not sound like a lot and it is well known that less than 15% vote share doesn't translate into many seats, the AAP is expected to get a large chunk of anti-BJP votes. This can be really worrisome for Congress because without the presence of AAP, it would have been really easy for them to form the government.
Even a few days ago when Delhi deputy CM and senior AAP leader Manish Sisodia visited Uttarakhand to launch the party's 'Navparivartan dialogue' he urged the people of the state to vote for education, health, and employment.
"In the last 21 years, both the BJP and the Congress have failed to develop Uttarakhand as per its potential and therefore, voters should give a chance to AAP, which is a performance-centric party," he said.
The AAP has projected Colonel Ajay Kothiyal (Retd) as the CM face and will also be contesting in all 70 seats. However, whether they will be able to make any substantial gains in the election will only be known on March 10, when the results will be announced.