Uttarakhand Election 2017: Orop likely to be a key issue in hill state with large defence population

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Dehradun on 27 December, 2017, he was not only kickstarting the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) poll campaign in Uttarakhand, he was also announcing the emphasis the saffron party was laying on reclaiming power in the hill state, which it ruled for five years before Harish Rawat's Congress government retook power in 2012.

Army veterans protesting for Orop. Reuters file image

Army veterans protesting for Orop. Reuters file image

One of the key issues Modi spoke about was the contentious 'one rank one pension' scheme, regarding which several armed forces personnel have been agitating. And though their ire has chiefly been directed towards the central government, blaming the Defence Ministry for not paying heed to their demands, the fact that Modi should still highlight the topic proves what a hot button issue it Orop as become, especially in Uttarakhand.

The state has a large population of retired and serving armed service personnel, and Orop is likely to resonate deeply here. Modi blamed the previous UPA government. Modi said the forces had been demanding it for more than 40 years, but it was only resolved this year. According to a report in Live Mint, Modi had said his government had disbursed nearly Rs 6,600 crore, and will continue doing more.

However, it appears that the prime minister failed to make a connection with his emotive words, as top Orop leaders have declared their support for Congress candidates in the poll-bound state that will hold Assembly election on 15 February. According to a report in DNA, Orop leaders openly shared the dais with chief minister Harish Rawat, and demanded the Centre to restore the parity of the armed forces' ranking vis-a-vis their civilian counterparts. The resolution of the ex-servicemen was accepted by neighbouring Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, who also guaranteed with the guarantee that all 21 recommendations will be accepted once Congress came to power in the state.

Randeep Surjewala, chairman of Congress' Media Cell, told the DNA report that the party stands committed to the demand of Orop and Prime Minister Narendra Modi should deliver what the soldiers want.

However, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had said last year that the issue of Orop is unlikely to impact the poll outcome, as the issue is "progressing satisfactorily". "Within 18 months, we resolved the 43-year-old Orop issue to high satisfaction levels, and all pending issues will be resolved shortly. Most of the pending issues have been inherited by this government. Barring the disability pension, most other issues have their origin in the Sixth Pay Commission, which we are committed to resolve. It is inappropriate to allow vested interest groups to deliberately build a narrative that is factually baseless and devoid of merit," he had said.

With inputs from agencies

Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.

Updated Date: Feb 09, 2017 18:45:27 IST

Also See