Uttarakhand was expected to go the BJP's way given the turbulence within the ruling Congress government prior to the elections. The exit poll results, thus, don't surprise one. Only two of the five surveys indicate a close fight, the rest give BJP a thumping majority. If they turn out to be correct, the Congress has only itself to blame.
In May last year, nine senior leaders, including former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, had defected to the BJP, triggering a constitutional crisis in the state. This could have been a blessing in disguise for Chief Minister Harish Rawat. He had the advantage of playing the victim card — as someone whose legitimate government was toppled by unfair means — and gained sympathy of the masses. He had the opportunity to paint BJP as the villain.
He also had the scope to induct fresh blood in terms of candidates and approach the elections with new energy. After all, the troublemakers were out and he had a free hand to choose the best people from the party or outside.
However, what the party witnessed between the constitutional crisis mid-last year and the election last month were new troubles opening up. Ticket distribution left many hopefuls unhappy and Rawat's alleged high-handed ways alienated party workers. As many as 50 out of 70 seats in the state, according to media reports, had too many angry Congress workers.
Accommodating so many leaders against the wishes of party workers was a problem for the BJP too. It too faced a problem of dissidence. If Rawat were smart enough, he could have used that to his advantage. But he went about making the polls a Narendra Modi versus Harish Rawat battle. It was unwise to begin with, and the results show in the exit polls.
Thus, the writing was on the wall for the party even before the actual voting took place. If Congress ends up with less than 20 seats, the blame will be solely on Rawat. However, the bigger worry would be if the vote share slips drastically, from a shade beyond 33 percent in 2012. Exit polls suggest that the BJP's share of votes could go up to 40 percent from the current 33. The Congress would find it difficult to regain lost ground in such a scenario.
However, all post-exit poll analyses discount the possibility of independent candidates playing a role in the formation of the government in Uttarakhand. In case they manage around five seats and the final tally gets close between Congress and BJP, then they could have a say. This follows the usual pattern in the state. The BJP would not want a situation like this. It would like to have a clear mandate.
Whatever the final result, Assembly election in Uttarakhand, like in other states, particularly neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, will be a referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Incumbent Chief Minister Harish Rawat can only blame himself if the party loses badly. He could have turned adversity into opportunity; he didn't.
Updated Date: Mar 11, 2017 01:24 AM