Congress fights for prestige in Uttarakhand

It’s a straight contest between  the Congress party and the BJP

Published: 15th February 2017 02:43 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th February 2017 12:57 PM   |  A+A-

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat. | PTI

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: Even as the nation’s attention remained fixed on the dramatic political scenario in Chennai post the Supreme Court verdict, lakhs of voters will be expressing their own crucial verdict on the other side of the country on Wednesday — in 69 Assembly seats of Uttarakhand and 67 of Uttar Pradesh

It’s a straight fight between the Congress and the BJP in the hill State, with internecine tensions providing the only real complications. In the adjoining minority-heavy constituencies of UP’s Terai, the more complex, two-pronged challenge posed by the BJP and the BSP means a lot is at stake for the SP-Congress combine.

By campaigning vigorously in this phase, particularly in Uttarakhand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has tried to make it a referendum about the Union government’s policies and politics. But as far as Uttarakhand is concerned, it’s primarily a prestige fight for Congress Chief Minister Harish Rawat. For the Grand Old Party, it’s about holding on to the last few states where it’s still in power. But what stands out is the nature of the contests.

The most watched among them are the ones being fought by the camp followers of former Congress CM Vijay Bahuguna, who is now in the BJP.

Rawat has campaigned rather extensively in the nine seats being contested by those who quit his government to join the BJP.  So much so, the Uttarakhand elections are being termed as a Congress versus Congress fight.

However, the phenomenon of rebel candidates is not confined to the Congress. The BJP too is facing the heat in seats where it has given tickets to high-profile new inductees like former Congressi Harak Singh Rawat (Kotdwar) or former Union minister Satpal Maharaj (Chaubattakhal) in place of its sitting MLAs.
The Congress is expected to do well in the plains. Nonetheless, in the convoluted scenario, CM Rawat is not taking any chances, and is himself contesting from two seats — Hardwar Rural and Kichha.

BJP is more focused on the hill seats, with Modi even venturing to Pithoragarh for a rally to woo serving and retired Army personnel. Surgical strikes and cross-border terrorism and the demonetisation narrative tied to that found prominent mention in his speech.

That apart, he targeted the Congress on corruption, which in turn was met by Rahul Gandhi’s retort that the BJP had inducted the “garbage we threw out” because of corruption allegations. Rahul, who did a 75-km roadshow and two public meetings, focused on the pains caused by demonetisation, job loss and inflation. However, the BSP has certainly more at stake in the second phase of UP polls, coinciding with Uttarakhand.

BSP chief Mayawati has been diligently trying to keep Muslim voters from drifting towards the SP-Congress combine. A Dalit-Muslim vote combination in this phase, if it fructifies as per plan, can bring her closer to the seat of power in Lucknow. 

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