Uttarakhand: Navigating an uphill path

Storied history of delivering surprising outcomes where voters have not hesitated to shift sides
Uttarakhand: Navigating an uphill path

DEHRADUN: Even as the five seats of Uttarakhand are all set to go to polls in the first phase on April 19, the political mood of the voters remains a mystery this time too, as has been the trend. Over 10 veterans in the state have faced a crushing defeat in the electoral history. These include the leaders who contested the Lok Sabha elections from Uttarakhand, hoping for easy access to Parliament but were disappointed.

Ram Vilas Paswan, Mayawati, Satpal Maharaj, Lt-Gen (Retd) Bhuwan Chandra Khanduri, Bhagat Singh Koshyari, ND Tiwari, Maharaja Manvendra Shah of Tehri, and Harish Rawat were rejected at one time or the other. The state has a long and storied history of delivering surprising election outcomes where voters have not hesitated to shift their allegiance.

With a commendable literacy rate, Uttarakhand residents have consistently exercised their voting rights after thoughtful deliberation on national and significant issues. Amarjeet Singh, spokesperson for Congress in Uttarakhand, underscored the impact of literacy in the state, stating, “The high literacy rate plays a key role in voters making informed decisions by considering national issues during elections, reflecting their concern for serious matters at a national level.”

“This time, the public is going to vote on issues like inflation, unemployment, security, migration, and law and order, and after seeing the political situation, Uttarakhand may give results similar to 2009,” he said.


History of victories, defeats

A glance into the electoral history of Uttarakhand brings forth some intriguing results. In 1984, Harish Rawat defeated BJP stalwart Murli Manohar Joshi. In 1989, the then Congress veteran Satpal Maharaj was defeated by Janata Dal’s Chandramohan Singh Negi. In 1989, Ramvilas Paswan suffered a decisive defeat from the Haridwar seat.

BSP supremo Mayawati faced a crushing defeat from Haridwar in 1990 and 1991. Similarly, in 1989, independent candidate Kashi Singh Aeri defeated Bhagat Singh Koshyari in the Almora seat. During the Ram mandir wave in 1991, the strong contender for the PM’s post from the Congress ND Tiwari was defeated by by BJP’s Balraj Pasi. In 1996 and 2009, B C Khanduri, who served as an MP four times on the Pauri seat, also faced defeat.

Similarly, Maharaja Manvendra Shah, an eight-time MP, was unseated on Tehri by independent candidate Paripurnanand Panuli in 1971. Also, Bachhi Singh Rawat, a former BJP minister, secured win over Harish Rawat on three consecutive occasions from Almora. In 2019, Ajay Bhatt emerged victorious over Harish Rawat on Nainital seat.

Current state of affairs

The primary contest is expected between the BJP and the Congress in all the five seats. Although Umesh Kumar from Haridwar and Bobby Pawar from Tehri are both strong independent candidates, as per the assessment of the previous election results, even in these elections, these independent candidates can be limited to affecting the margin of victory of the winning candidate. One of the two independents, Umesh Kumar, is an MLA from Khanpur constituency.

In Tehri, three-time BJP MP Mala Rajya Laxmi Shah will face Congress’s Jot Singh Gunasola, a two-time MLA from Mussoorie, this time. Berojgar Sangh chief Bobby Pawar is contesting as an independent candidate with many youth supporters.

The contest in Garhwal is between Congress’s Ganesh Godiyal and BJP’s Anil Baluni. The BJP has fielded Rajya Sabha MP in place of Tirath Singh Rawat. Godiyal has previously served as a legislator.

The BJP has pitted former CM Trivendra Singh Rawat against Congress’s Virendra Rawat in Haridwar. The BSP also commands a significant vote bank in this region, and independent candidate Umesh Kumar from Khanpur is also vying for victory. Umesh currently serves as an independent MLA from Khanpur.

In Almora, two old rivals, Ajay Tamta of BJP and Pradeep Tamta of Congress, will once again come face to face. In Nainital, MoS Ajay Bhatt will be challenged by a new face, Prakash Joshi of Congress.

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