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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Explained: Why despite Arvind Kejriwal’s ambition, AAP faces a tough uphill climb in Uttarakhand

The demography, society, and politics of the hill state are nothing like Delhi's, where AAP has a winning formula. Uttarakhand has also not shown any appetite for parties other than the BJP and Congress.

Written by Lalmani Verma , Edited by Explained Desk | Dehradun | Updated: August 25, 2020 4:16:30 pm
AAP workers in Dehradun celebrate their party's victory in the Delhi assembly elections. File/PTI

Late last week, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) will contest all 70 seats in the Uttarakhand Assembly elections in 2022.

Kejriwal said his party will offer the Delhi model of governance to the people of the politically calm hill state, whose politics is dominated by the national parties, BJP and Congress.

Aren’t Delhi and Uttarakhand very dissimilar to each other?

In almost every way – society, geography, or demography.

Uttarakhand occupies an area that is 36 times that of Delhi, and has a population density of just 189 per square kilometre – a fraction of the 11,320 per sq km in the national capital (Census 2011 data).

It is a hilly, forested, state with some very remote areas and scattered population, with patchy mobile phone networks and unreliable Internet – modern technological tools that are crucial to the political activities of the AAP.

Some 17.85 lakh people in Delhi live in slums, which constitute an important reservoir of votes for the AAP, which has been able to tailor its message and politics around the needs of this population.

In comparison, Uttarakhand, which does not have many densely populated urban centres, has only 4.87 lakh population living in slums, as per the 2011 Census.

Again, Delhi is overwhelmingly urban – when AAP recorded its first victory in 2013, only 2.5 per cent of the population was living in the rural areas, and the remaining urban population was looking for an alternative to the Congress and BJP. Even the ‘rural’ in Delhi is very different from the villages in most of India – and certainly in Uttarakhand, where almost 70 per cent of the population lives in villages scattered across the state.

For the AAP, which has to start from scratch to raise a cadre in Uttarakhand, reaching out to the rural population will pose a formidable challenge – indeed, a political worker may have to walk four or five kilometres in difficult terrain to reach perhaps a dozen voters.

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What about society and caste?

Caste politics is another significant difference between the two states. The majority of Uttarakhand’s population is divided between Thakurs and Brahmins. In the forest areas, a tribal population of over 3 lakh changes the mix somewhat.

Delhi’s large population of Scheduled Castes (SCs) has supported the AAP in past Assembly elections. As per the 2011 census, there were 28 lakh SCs in Delhi, compared with 18.92 lakh in Uttarakhand. Delhi’s Dalit population is likely to be much more now, given the trends of migration seen in the past decade.

Muslims, who had played a significant role in the AAP’s victories in Delhi, are mainly confined to Dehradun, Haridwar and Haldwani (Nainital district) in Uttarakhand. The Muslim population of the state is much smaller than Delhi’s, as per local politicians.

And, Uttarakhand has traditionally been a straight fight between the BJP and Congress.

Yes. In elections held since the state was created in 2000, regional parties have had very little influence. The Congress and BJP have won alternately – the Congress in 2002 and 2012, and the BJP in 2007 and 2017.

The oldest regional outfit, Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKD), which was founded in 1979, has steadily lost significance – it won 4 seats out of 70 in the Assembly elections of 2002, followed by 3 seats and 1 seat in 2007 and 2012. It won nothing in 2017. The party has also never won a Lok Sabha seat in the state.

The BSP, which has a support base of Dalits in Haridwar, Dehradun and Udham Singh Nagar, too drew a blank in the Assembly elections of 2017. It party won seven, eight, and three seats in the Assembly elections of 2002, 2007, and 2012 respectively.

The Samajwadi Party (SP) that ruled adjoining Uttar Pradesh from 2003 to 2007 and from 2012 to 2017, has never won a seat in the Uttarakhand House.

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