UTTARAKHAND: 70 seats, BJP majority
It is clear that, like in Uttar Pradesh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi turned out to be an irresistible political force before which issues such as the adverse impact of demonetisation (the state’s apex business body, SIDCUL, said production losses as a result of the note ban were over Rs 10,000 crore, and some 25,000 jobs were lost), and dissent over giving tickets to Congress rebels melted away. This, alongside “nationalism” and the promise of “vikas”, pulled the BJP’s voteshare up 40% from 33.13% in 2012 to 46.5%.
The BJP’s massive four-fifths majority (57 seats) has cut out the leverage that the Congress rebels who have won on the party’s ticket might have hoped to have. They were fast becoming a power centre, but the BJP leadership now has the freedom to choose its team without encumbrances.
The big loser
The Uttarakhand Congress stands considerably depleted. Major leaders had already joined the BJP, and Pradesh Congress Committee chief Kishore Upadhyaya and Chief Minister Harish Rawat lost on Saturday — the latter at both seats he contested. The Congress high command will have a tough time choosing the next leader of opposition and state party president. Rawat is on a slippery road personally — he has enough enemies within the party and outside, and his party leadership has tolerated him so far largely because of his perceived indispensability. That situation has now changed.
The BJP’s victory sets the state up for, according to Modi’s promise, “double engine growth”. The time to test the promise has arrived. There are several contentious issues awaiting settlement between the state and the Centre, including that of the Bhagirathi Eco Sensitive Zone, mining and industrial activity in hill areas and pending release of central funds. The people would want the central government to ensure migration from the hills stops, agriculture improves, the real estate and liquor mafia are checked, and the hill-plains divide bridged.
The Congress’s voteshare has fallen to only 33.5% from 2012’s 33.79%. Its revival hinges on its ability to reach out to these voters, and focus on concrete issues and slogans.