Uttarakhand Election 2017: Yet again, we may have a close contest on our hands
Uttarakhand goes to the polls on 15 February. The state that was carved from the gigantic Uttar Pradesh in 2000 has witnessed three state Assembly elections in which close contests seem to be quite common. A total of 19 seats have been won by a margin of less than 2,000 votes and by a margin of less than five percent in the 2012 Assembly polls. Of these 19 seats, 16 were won by a margin of less than three percent. And that's not all. Eight of these 16 seats had been won by a vote margin of less than one percent.
Uttarakhand will have Assembly elections on 15 February. The state that was carved from the gigantic Uttar Pradesh in 2000 has witnessed three state Assembly elections and close contests have been quite common here. A total of 19 seats have been won by a margin of less than 2,000 votes and by a margin of less than five percent in the 2012 Assembly polls. Of these 19 seats, 16 were won by a margin of less than three percent. And that's not all. Eight of these 16 seats had been won by a vote margin of less than one percent.
In the 2012 elections, BJP candidate Ajay Bhatt won the Ranikhet seat defeating his nearest rival Karan Mahara by a margin of just 78 votes. His was the narrowest of all victories in the 2012 elections. Bhatt, interestingly had lost to the same rival in the 2007 elections, again by a narrow margin of 205 votes.
Bhatt is no rookie politician. A former health minister, he is the leader of opposition in the outgoing Assembly. Add to this the fact that he is at present also the state BJP president.
Another high-profile candidate who won by a whisker was Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, who served as the Uttarakhand chief minister between 2009 and 2011. Contesting from the Doiwala constituency, Pokhriyal managed to scrap through to a victory by a margin of just 1,272 votes.
BSP – the third player in the state
While most of the constituencies witnessed a direct fight between the BJP and Congress, one could not discount the BSP and independents, who either managed to defeat candidates from the two parties or at least ended as runners-up in some constituencies.
As a matter of fact, the BSP has been always been a strong third party in the state, consistently getting between 10 to 14 percent of total votes and having won three, eight and seven seats in the last three elections respectively.
Notably, it won the Manglore Asssembly seat by a margin of just 698 votes, while it was runner-up in the Jwalapur and Pirankaliyaar constituencies, which the Mayawati-led party lost by 558 and 1944 votes respectively.
Narrow victories are significant in Uttarakhand
The phenomena of narrow margin of victories is significant in the case of Uttarakhand: the 2012 election results had resulted in a hung Assembly. While the Congress won by 32 seats, arch rival BJP registered victories in 31 seats. If just four or five seats had gone in favour of either parties, one may have not witnessed the political instability that the state faced in early months of 2016.
Interestingly, the man who played a key role in instigating the crisis, Harak Singh Rawat, had himself won from Rudraprayag constituency by a margin of just 1,326 votes. In fact, in 2007 and 2002 too, the BJP and Congress only managed to barely cross the half way mark.
In the 2007 polls, 14 of the seats had been won by a margin of less than 2,000 votes while in the state’s first ever election in 2002, the number was double – 28. That figure constituted a whopping 40% of the total seats. In the 2002 polls, the then chief minister Nityanand Swami lost from Laxman Chowk constituency by 803 votes.
All set for a showdown
The state has witnessed quite an upheaval over the last few years, from the 2013 Himalayan floods and its aftermath to the political instability in 2016. These two events have been the dominating factor in this year’s election campaign.
With many leaders swapping parties prior to the election, the chances of trouble seems high in many constituency. In such a situation, political sabotage looks probable and yet another hung Assembly looks like a possible reality.
The BSP may also emerge as a dark horse, winning a few seats while splitting votes in many seats which are situated in the plains. Looking at the past trend of narrow victories, “devbhoomi” looks all set for another nail-biting electoral contest. It seems all candidates need a bit of luck to scrape through to victory.
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