Uttarakhand Election 2017: Political crisis of 2016, Harish Rawat's victim projection might help BJP win

Formed in 2000, Uttarakhand has always been a politically unstable state. The chief minister's office has had eight changes in its occupants all owed to in-fighting and rebellion. Just recently, in 2016, Uttarakhand saw an intense political crisis when Congress MLAs rebelled and joined Bharatiya Jananta Party in a revolt against chief minister Harish Rawat. According to an editorial in The Hindu, "It was created out of Uttar Pradesh in 2000 after a long grass-roots level struggle for statehood to meet the unique administrative needs of the Himalayan region. The State’s composite character demands genuine, responsive politics to bind the 13 districts into an organic whole. Indeed, party politics, as contrasted with the social coalition that won the statehood, is still a work in progress in crafting the balance and depth to keep the different regions and constituencies on board. Both the BJP and the Congress, during their respective stints in power, have struggled to paper over intra-party rivalries."

The 2016 constitutional crisis in the state was achieved with ease because the Congress won by a whisker in the 2012 election, with just one seat and thus the defection shook the ruling government's stability in the state.

Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat. File image. PTI.

Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat. File image. PTI.

In March last year, 27 BJP MLAs and nine rebel Congress MLAs sought to replace Harish Rawat as chief minister and the rebels included former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, who doesn't have a great rapport with Rawat who played a significant role in removing Bahuguna as chief minister of the state after the 2012 and 2013 flash floods. A three-person team — Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, Shyam Jaju and Kailash Vijayvargiya met the governor KK Paul and informed that the Harish Rawat government was in a minority and sought its dismissal.

However, Rawat claimed that he has "full majority" — "Those who are saying they have support of 35 MLAs are misrepresenting facts. I am confident that I still have a majority in the Assembly and can prove it on the floor of the House," he said. An intense war of words began between Congress and BJP leaders. Rawat had accused the BJP of spreading lies and trying to take political advantage of an internal rebellion in the Congress party.

"BJP is trying to topple the democratically elected government here as they have been doing it in other states. An all-powerful BJP government at the Centre is clearly misusing its position to murder democracy in Uttarakhand," Rawat had said.

BJP had also released a sting video, showing the chief minister bargaining with rebel party MLAs and offering them money to win over their support during the floor test in the Assembly on 28 March. Rawat had called the video 'fake.'

Later, a day before the Rawat government was supposed to go in for a floor test, President's Rule was imposed. Rawat consequently took up the matter to the courts and the Uttarakhand High Court quashed the President's Rule. Rawat also secured the floor's confidence because the rebel MLA's were not allowed to vote.

The constitutional crisis of 2017 highlighted the neck and neck race between BJP and Congress. Uttarakhand's political arena is one place where Narendra Modi is projecting himself as the poll mascot. Rawat is a veteran politicians and while the victory handed to him through the Supreme Court has given a filip to his political prowess, he is beginning to be seen as increasingly dictatorial. Rawat projects himself as a victim at the hands of a greedy central government — "BJP ke saare balwan milkar kamjor mukhyamantri ko chit karna chahte hain (Powerful BJP wants to defeat a weak chief minister)." Rawat's projection as that of a weakling might not help him retain power in the forthcoming election. This might help BJP finally achieve what it set out to get in 2016, and will use everything in its kitty.

BJP's parivartan yatras tend to focus on demonetisation and surgical strikes and is projecting those as Narendra Modi's bold moves — and as something previous leaders as having been unable to achieve. BJP has shied away from putting a spin on their failure to topple the Uttarakhand government into something positive. Modi has casually spoken in speeches how the state of Uttarakhand could do better by having a BJP government, making it easier to get help from the Centre.

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Updated Date: Feb 13, 2017 18:56:49 IST

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