DEHRADUN: Harish Rawat's much-extolled political acumen did not help him pull it off this time as he saw the Congress helplessly drift to a humiliating defeat in Uttarakhand failing to save even the two seats he contested.
Battling heavy defections from the party and the ill- effects of an infamous sting video in public domain accusing him of indulging in horse trading, Rawat failed to achieve the task of piloting his party to victory in the face of a massive groundswell of support in favour of the BJP which had promised a clean and accountable government to people relying heavily on the Modi magic.
Widely regarded for his political sagacity which helped Rawat emerge unscathed from the worst of circumstances, Rawat failed to rise to the expectations as the Congress was reduced to 11 seats.
His political acumen was in ample evidence when President's rule was revoked in the state and he was reinstated as the chief minister after managing to win a Supreme Court-monitored floor test in which MLAs who had revolted against him were not allowed to vote.
But his trouble only deepened as the state moved towards elections not much later.
Ticket distribution left many inside his party, which had already suffered the setback of losing a number of stalwarts to the BJP, quit it and enter the fray as independents against their own party's official nominees in nearly a dozen seats.
Loss of a big Dalit leader like former PCC chief Yashpal Arya who felt ignored in the party just ahead of the polls is also being interpreted as a big jolt to the party.
The BJP gave tickets to both Arya and his son from Bajpur and Nainital respectively and reaped a rich electoral dividend.
Armed with a sting video purportedly showing Rawat negotiating a deal to buy back support of disgruntled party MLAs at the time of political crisis in the state, the BJP began harping on the issue of prevailing corruption and started a sustained drive.
Rawat often dismissed it as a slander campaign against him to expose the manner in which constitutional institutions were allegedly misused by the party in power to save a corrupt government.
While Rawat owned up responsibility for the party's dismal performance in the polls, the BJP said his defeat in both the seats he contested reflects total rejection of his leadership by the people.
A Lucknow University graduate, 68-year-old Rawat was born on April 27, 1948 in Mohanari village of Almora district in undivided Uttar Pradesh in a family of farmers.
Starting from village politics he became a trade unionist and later joined Youth Congress.
Heading the Congress's Volunteer Wing and the Seva Dal for several years, Rawat made it for the first time to the Lok Sabha in 1980 by defeating BJP veteran Murli Manohar Joshi from Almora, a parliamentary constituency he represented in the Lower House for three consecutive terms after that. Rawat left his traditional stronghold of Almora after it became a reserved seat post delimitation to contest from Haridwar, and won the election with over 3.3 lakh of votes.
He was also member of the Rajya Sabha from 2002-2008.
In 2009 he was elected to the Lok Sabha again and served as the Union Minister for Water Resources in the Manmohan Singh government.
Rawat took over from Vijay Bahuguna as chief minister of the state on February 1, 2014 when the latter resigned due to criticism of his handling of rehabilitation after June 2013 flash floods.
Rawat's political journey shows he has always been a dogged fighter who had to slog for everything he earned in politics and managed to almost emerge unscathed from the worst of situations.
Even the chief minister's chair eluded him twice by a hair's breadth before he finally got it in February 2014.
He first lost the race for chief ministership to Congress veteran N D Tiwari and again for a second time to Vijay Bahuguna when the latter, a former judge of the Bombay High Court, was foisted as chief minister by Sonia Gandhi in 2012.
Rawat never lost his battles tamely, digging in his heels every time things did not go the way he wanted.
But this time, he was not that lucky.