DEHRADUN: In Uttarakhand, the opposition BJP is unable to stoke the anti-incumbency factor against the Congress government because one of the chief ministers who steered the state in the last five years is now on its side.
For the first two years of Congress rule in Uttarakhand (2012-2017), Vijay Bahuguna was the chief minister. But he was forced to quit in the aftermath of the Kedarnath tragedy of 2013, in which 6000 people died and many are still missing. The handling of those floods and the reconstruction since then are still live political issues in the hill state. But Vijay Bahuguna is now in the BJP.
BJP candidates are therefore clearly inhibited in criticising the ‘misgovernance’ by the Congress in the last five years. Chief minister Harish Rawat has been in the saddle for a bit over half the term. “It is obvious that the BJP finds itself in a very piquant situation,’’ says political analyst TN Rawat.
The BJP’s line of attack has therefore been limited to the time Harish Rawat has been in office, which they say is marred by several scams. It is a limited arsenal in the BJP’s bid to capture the 70-member Assembly, which goes to the polls on February 15. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has put in a few appearances
around the state to help out his troops, harping on the stillborn announcement of projects by Harish Rawat, who he says is in the ‘’habit of laying foundation stones’’ that never take off. Harish Rawat is happy to limit the debate to his time in office. He says he inherited a mess after the Kedarnath floods and has had only three years to set things right. “I’ve been in office only for three years. I need at least five years,’’ he says, with a smile. “Can anyone develop a state within three years after what happened in 2013?”
Rawat is only too happy to blame Vijay Bahuguna for the mishandling of rescue operations during the Kedarnath tragedy, especially the halting of rescue operations at a crucial juncture. That left many people missing or unaccounted for. It’s an issue that rankles with the people, especially the Pahadi people.
“The Pahaadi people are sensitive to such blame games. Moreover, leaders switching parties is something that does not go down well with the people. The Kedarnath tragedy was a major event and people cannot forget it easily. The scars remain,” says Dehradun-based T N Rawat.
So on the stump, it is Vijay Bahuguna, who does the incumbent’s defence. “I did my best,” he says about the Kedarnath tragedy.