In Uttarakhand's hills, BJP's nationalism strikes a chord; voters downplay local issues, say problems can be solved later
Though locals in Uttarakhand's hilly areas — Kumaon and Garhwal — are upset with the BJP over unemployment, migration and lack of basic facilities, nationalism seems to be striking a chord with people openly voicing their support for Narendra Modi
Though roads, bridges and schools, engulfed by recent floods, are yet be restored in the hilly areas of Uttarakhand, it's nationalism that is striking a chord
Even the youth who are upset with state BJP government over unemployment, seem to be more driven by Nationalism
The Balakot air strike has earned the Modi government praises from locals, who see the current prime minister as a strong leader
Pauri/Rudraprayag: The hills are high on nationalism, keeping local issues aside. Struggling hard after the Kedarnath disaster, Uttarakhand is still waiting for basic facilities, swiped away in a huge flood. The roads, bridges and schools, engulfed by river water, are yet be in the process of restoration, but the hills seem to be judging the state's leaders on a completely different issue.
Even migration, another core issue, which has been turning the hills into a dry, barren and ghostly region without inhabitants, seems to have no takers. And even though India is abuzz with the Lok Sabha Election 2019, in the sleepy cities of Uttarakhand, polling is not a topic drawing discussion amid locals. What seems to strike a chord, when people are asked if the hills are voting for it, is nationalism.
Divided into Kumaon and Garhwal regions, Uttarakhand has the maximum number of people in the Indian Army and other armed forces of India, which is quite enough to evoke sentiments of nationalism. Moreover, sharing boundaries with China and Nepal, Uttarakhand faces incidents like Chinese transgression very off and on. The recent Pulwama attack, which claimed the lives of two CRPF personnel from Uttarakhand has created a furore among the people in the state. Two army officers, who were natives of Uttarakhand, were also killed just a few days after the Pulwama incident. The whole Uttarakhand was high on sentiments on these sacrifices. Nationalism was in the air, and the people were high on patriotism.
Dhan Singh Rawat, who runs a line hotel in Devprayag in Tehri Garhwal region, says, “Kisi aur ko vote dene ka sawal hi nahin hai. Hamein Modi jaisa neta chahiye. Surgical strike aur air strike ke baad mere gaon mein log bahut khush hain. Bade faisle karne ke liye himmat chahiye. Char dham road aur Rishikesh karnprayag railway line lane ke baare mein Modi hi soch sakte the. Kisi aur ke bas ki baat nahin hai (There is no question of voting for anybody else. We want leader like Modi. The people in my village are very happy after the surgical strike and air strike was conducted. Only Modi could have thought about bringing big projects like all-weather road and Rishikesh Karnprayag railway line in our state. No other leader has the capacity to think big about us)."
A native of Khirsu in Pauri Garhwal region, Ravindra Singh who was waiting for a bus at Shrinagar Bus station echoed the same voice, “My father is retired from the army. Avenging Pulwama was the right decision. We have the responsibility to keep our army’s morale high."
When asked about migration and other local issues, Singh said, “Ye sab toh chalta hi rahega lekin hamein baahri muddon ke liye ek hona chahiye. Desh ke muddon par, apni pareshaaniya bhool kar ek hona padega These problems can be solved later but it is important to unite against outer threats)."
“Ninety percent people in my village are in the army. They say Modi has taken away all our past woes. He (Modi) has avenged the sacrifices and the humiliation faed by the army in the past,” says Manoj Negi, a resident of Maletha, which comes under the Tehri Garhwal Loksabha seat.
Even the youth in the hilly state seems to think that the BJP is good for Uttarakhand even though voters have grievances with the local leadership. "This party is taking good decisions at the centre. Balakot airstrike is one of them,” says a teenager.
Rakesh Bisht, a resident of Devalsaari in Chamoli district, puts his thoughts assertively, "Yeh kaam toh bahut pahle hona chaahiye tha, magar kisi mein himmat nahin thi. pakistaan ko bahut pahle sabak sikhaana chaahiye tha. Hamara josh high kar diya (This should have been done much before but no one dared. Pakistan should have been thought a lesson much earlier. This action has raised our spirit)."
The Kumaon region in Uttarakhand is going to see an interesting fight between two stalwarts of Congress and BJP from the Nainital seat. Former chief minister and Congress leader Harish Rawat is contesting the polls against Ajay Bhatt, BJP state president.
Charu Joshi, an account officer in Nainital, justifies the fervour of nationalism, “The fight is one-sided in Nainital because of huge sentiments for the army. Kumaon also has a huge percent of army people and we all feel too bad when an army personal dies. The Indian Air Force strike (on Balakot) made us happy so it can fetch votes for BJP."
The dissatisfaction with the BJP state government is not hidden and it gets reflected while discussing unemployment among youth, but, the people seem to be more driven by Nationalism.
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