Updated: March 12, 2017 10:15:46 am
THE THEME that has always dominated elections, and subsequent government formation exercises, in Uttarakhand has been completely erased by the results. Independents and regional parties have played an important role in the state’s politics ever since Uttarakhand was formed in 2000. Raising local and sub-regional demands, they are often seen as a necessary check on the two national parties.
While Independents got a reasonable 10 per cent vote, and the BSP received 7 per cent, their total seat tally, however, ended at just two.
Annoyed over the BJP giving tickets to as many as 13 Congress rebels, some 20 party workers and RSS swayamsevaks contested as Independents. The Congress had also given tickets to BJP rebels, and in turn it faced its rebel candidates as Independents.
Such a large number of prominent Independents had made the election a major gamble, opening up a possibility of hectic negotiations.
In the end, only two rebel candidates contesting as Independents won: Ram Singh from Bhimtal, and Pritam Singh Panwar, who won from hilly seat of Dhanolti. Panwar’s victory is likely to reverberate in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi — he defeated Narayan Singh Rana, father-in-law of Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s son Pankaj Singh, the new MLA from Noida, in UP. Incidentally, the BJP was initially not keen on giving Rana a ticket. An RSS swayamsevak, he was out of politics for more than 15 years.
Yet, the verdict throws an interesting scene ahead. Several Congress rebels — including Harak Singh Rawat, Satpal Maharaj and Yashpal Arya — are stalwarts in Uttarakhand politics. Although there were several nervous moments in their campaign, they enjoy tremendous clout — that they would get prominent position in the new BJP government was almost a forgone conclusion, drawing ire of loyal cadres.
Although barring the likes of Shaila Rani Rawat (Kedarnath) and Shailendra Mohan Singhal (Jaspur) all Congress rebels who joined the BJP have won, the saffron party’s decisive mandate left them without much bargaining power. “We bargained with them a lot (before the polls). It’s our government now, and we will decide what they get,” said a BJP leader, pointing out that even the combined strength of all the rebels makes no dent to the majority the party now enjoys.
The rebels, though, played a major spoilsport for the Congress. If state Congress president Kishore Upadhyaya came second in Sahspur, the man trailing him was an Independent, Aryendra Sharma, who had been a loyal party member of several decades. The poll arithmetic in the seat, with nearly 30,000 Muslim votes, favoured Upadhyaya, but the party’s vote got split between the two Brahmins. Upadhyaya got 25,192 votes, Sharma polled 21,888 votes. Together, their share would have been enough to overcome the 44,055 votes BJP’s winning candidate Sahdev Pundir polled.
The verdict is also a question for regional forces such as the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKKD), which emerged during the long struggle for statehood. From 5.49 per cent of the vote pie in 2002, the UKKD’s share this time is down to just 0.7 per cent — the party polled a total of 37,039 votes across the state.
“There is no regional leader today — they have all been wiped out, and they have no immediate future,” said Annapurna Nautiyal, Dean, Social Sciences and Humanities, HNB University in Srinagar. “People have given the vote to the BJP hoping for a major change. If the BJP digresses from its promises, regional issues might emerge again.”
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