Over the last 15 years, the electoral history of Uttarakhand provides testimony to the fact that the state’s people never made any one party victorious by blindly trusting it. It was only in the first assembly elections, in 2002, that one political party, the Congress, got a majority — 36 seats, only one seat more than the number needed in the 70-member assembly. Otherwise, in 2007 and 2012, the Congress and BJP got almost equal seats — ultimately, the party that managed to lure independents and smaller groups came to power. Perhaps this is why proper development evaded
Uttarakhand, because no government was stable enough to focus on work. Political pundits were predicting the same fate this time too. Till last year, it was being said that Harish Rawat would win the next election, so much so that even until the last phase of these polls, no one was able to see that there was not just a “wave” in Uttarakhand, but a storm. Even if someone believed that, they weren’t willing to take the risk of voicing their view because history so far simply hadn’t gone that way. That is why this becomes an incredibly important question now: How did the BJP get a three-fourth majority? How did the people of Uttarakhand vote for the BJP so emphatically? What was the strategy that breathed new life into the Uttarakhand BJP?
The sole credit for this goes to the national BJP president Amit Shah, who gave the state BJP a slogan that forced the region to make such a clear choice. The Uttarakhand election actually testifies to how one slogan can change the entire political landscape. In this case, this slogan was: “Atal ji ne rajya diya, Modi ji sanwarenge” (Atalji gave us the realm, Modiji will adorn it). On November 8, 2016, Amit Shah voiced this slogan at the BJP’s parivartan rally in Dehradun. Until then, the state BJP leaders weren’t able to fathom the precise logic to go to the people with — after that, every worker of the party spread this slogan across the state. The message was taken to the masses.
Amit Shah knew that the people of the state were politically well-informed. In the Lok Sabha elections, Uttarkhand often walks alongside national trends. And in the last two and a half years, the way Prime Minister Narendra Modi has established trust among the people of the country, by toiling night and day and raising India’s profile at the national and international level, has proven that there is no bigger icon in the country at this stage.
In fact, the people of Uttarakhand lapped up this slogan. Awaiting development for the last one and a half decades, for the people, there couldn’t be any bigger reassurance. The people had little faith in local leaders. They had tried and tested almost everyone. Therefore, they breathed a sigh of relief when they got the reassurance of direct care from the country’s prime minister. Could anything be better than that?
Immediately before the elections, between February 11-13, when PM Modi held four rallies in Uttarakhand, unprecedented crowds had gathered to join the events. From Haridwar, Srinagar, Rudrapur and Pithoragarh, such rallies were never before seen in the history of Uttarakhand. Children, the elderly and the young travelled long distances to attend these. Looking at the huge crowds, anyone could quite easily gauge how the Modi wave in Uttarakhand was going to erupt in a storm.
The last nail in the Congress’s coffin was when Narendra Modi declared on February 11, at a rally in Srinagar, “The protection of Uttarakhand is my responsibility.” In these elections, using local idioms and proverbs, Modi had struck a deep chord with the local people. In Pithoragarh, after Indira Gandhi, no other political leader had even addressed the masses. For the first time, the people there were able to feel included and that there could not be anything better than if the prime minister was willing to take direct responsibility for their well-being. A leader who can animate people with energy, even by being in opposition in the state, would be truly game-changing if his party forms the government. That is why the great people of Uttarakhand rose above caste, religion and region and voted across the state only in the name of Modi. Thus, the Congress was completely eliminated.
What could be a bigger miracle than the fact of Harish Rawat, who was dreaming about being Uttarakhand’s chief minister again, losing from both seats? Indeed, social researchers should study how such slogans powerfully affect our collective psychology.
The writer is spokesperson, BJP