Hilly Uttarakhand does not figure large on the overall electoral map of India. But when every electoral victory or loss becomes a matter of prestige for political parties even small states assume significance. So both the Congress and the BJP, the most important parties in the state, will give it all to the electoral fight in the state with 70 seats in the assembly.
The final tally in 2012 left both parties almost even in terms of vote share and seats. It was a case of so near yet so far for the BJP which won 31 seats to the Congress' 32. In 2007, the party had won 32 and the latter 30. This scenario leaves minor players such as the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and independents with a decisive role in the government formation process. As the state gets ready for another election the equations remain the largely unchanged.
Chief Minister Harish Rawat was expected to ride a sympathy wave to victory in 2017 after the BJP sought to cash in on the internal bickering in the Congress to overthrow his government in the middle of 2016. It was a spectacular self-goal by the BJP. It was chastised by the Supreme Court for making a mockery of the Constitution and Rawat was finally back in the saddle after proving his majority in the House.
However, by the end of the year the sympathy factor appeared to have evaporated with an opinion polls conducted by a news channel predicting a victory for the BJP if the elections were held at that point. It said the victory margin would be slender but it would be a decisive one, not requiring it to seek support of either independents or the BSP. Rawat had squandered his goodwill and people fondly recollected the leadership of BC Khanduri.
Given everything else was unchanged the BJP would still be the favourite in the elections due on 15 February. But things appear much more complicated at this point. Besides taking care of the factional fight involving former chief ministers it would have to face the effects of demonetisation. Announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 8 November, the move has created some problems for people. Getting cash has been troublesome and the situation is likely to continue for a few months. While it is not clear how big has been the impact of the exercise in Uttarakhand, it is likely that it follows the pattern across the country.
Thus, besides being a test of Rawat's popularity, the coming elections would be a vote on demonetisation too. The BJP would try to exploit the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but two and a half years in power has taken some sheen off his mass appeal. It will be left to the local leaders to stage a comeback for the party. The Congress, caught in factionalism as always and faced with the anti-incumbency factor, will have a tough job at hand.
The election of February promises to be interesting. Let's wait and watch how it unfolds.
Updated Date: Jan 05, 2017 07:56 AM