DEHRADUN: The five Lok Sabha seats in Uttarakhand are in for straight contests between arch rivals BJP and Congress, poll watchers feel, with the SP out of the electoral fray, the BSP drawing blanks in past general elections and other smaller parties having no "substantial base" in the state.
Polls for the state's five parliamentary seats will be held on April 11. Since the creation of Uttarakhand in 2000, the BJP and the Congress have always emerged as the dominant parties in the state, except in 2004 when the Samajwadi Party (SP) won the Haridwar parliamentary seat, they said.
SP's Rajendra Singh 'Baudy' had won Haridwar by defeating Bahujan Samaj Party's Bhagwandass in 2004.
In 2009, the Congress won all the seats while the BJP wrested them from the grand old party in 2014.
"Barring the Congress and the BJP, none of the political parties in Uttarakhand have a substantial support base.
"So, the two national parties are almost invariably locked in straight contests in the state," noted poll watcher Avdhash Kaushal said.
The SP moving out of the poll scene even after entering into an alliance with the BSP in the state, has made it almost certain that the contest on all seats will be between the two national parties, the poll watchers said.
Explaining why most general elections in Uttarakhand are BJP versus Congress, an expert on the state's politics, Jaisingh Rawat, said, "Being a border state with a large number of its residents in the armed forces, nationalist feelings have always been dominant here. They have not allowed the growth of regional parties or a sectarian mindset."
"The biggest leaders from Uttarakhand, including Govind Ballabh Pant, Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna or N D Tiwari, enjoyed a national stature. People here tend to think with a national perspective," he said.
The BSP, which has been drawing a blank in general elections in Uttarakhand since the formation of the state in 2000, has fielded candidates from four of the five seats in the hope of a better performance.
"We are contesting from four seats this time and hope to be successful," state BSP spokesman Rajendra Singh said. The SP, too, has drawn blanks on all seats in the 2009 and 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The SP had got the Pauri seat to contest in Uttarakhand as per the seat sharing arrangement with its alliance partner BSP this time, but finally chose to stay out of the fray in the absence of a strong candidate, they said.
Political circles here were initially abuzz with speculation that SP president Akhilesh Yadav's wife Dimple, who was born in Uttarakhand, could contest from Pauri, but the party eventually did not field a candidate from there.
Most regional parties, including the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKD) which had spearheaded the agitation for statehood in the 1990s, could not hold out against the two national parties in any of the general elections in the state.
Rawat, a veteran journalist, said, "Sporadic efforts to evolve a third front consisting of regional parties in the past have failed with all of them finally merging with either the BJP or the Congress reducing electoral fights to straight contests between the two national parties.
" Terming the SP's victory from Haridwar in 2004 as a "stand alone" thing, he said Rajendra Singh Baudy bagged the seat capitalising on the hills versus plains sentiment running high at the time since the state had been created out of Uttar Pradesh just a few years ago in 2000.
However, UKD president Diwakar Bhatt, who is considered a major leader of the Uttarakhand statehood movement, is optimistic about a better performance by the party in the Lok Sabha election this time.
Most of the UKD's nominees had lost their deposits in the last Lok Sabha elections.
Despite the odds, the regional outfit has fielded its candidates from all the five Lok Sabha seats in the state.