Verdict Uttarakhand is full of surprises

The seesaw battle in the hilly state of Uttarakhand ended in a photo finish.

Saswat Panigrahi

The seesaw battle in the hilly state of Uttarakhand ended in a photo finish. Finally, the Congress was narrowly ahead of BJP, but still failed to get a simple majority.

The Congress has won 32 seats and BJP won 31 out of the 70 Assembly constituencies. Three seats went in BSP’s kitty and others won 4.

In this case, the picture is still unclear who will form the next government in the state. At this point in time, it looks like government formation is within the grasp of the Congress. Out of the four independents, three are Congress rebels. If Congress manages to win over the independents, the party is still falling sort of one seat. In that case it has to take the support of BSP to stake claim to form the next government. In addition, Uttarakhad has the provision of nominating one MLA from the Anglo-Indian community by the party which forms the government.

But at least the picture is clear – Uttarkhand has voted for a hung Assembly.

This election has thrown up a number of surprises. The biggest surprises came from the BJP. Chief Minister BC Khanduri lost Kotdwar Assembly constituency to SS Negi of the Congress by 4,632 votes, thanks to the sabotage from within the party. Remember Exit polls conducted by five news channels projected Khanduri as the most popular Chief Minister in the poll-bound states. Doesn’t matter. Honest people always find it difficult in politics.

The election outcome has proved all Exit poll predictions wrong. A majority of the Exit polls had shown that Congress has an edge over BJP in Uttarakhand. Out of the five Exit polls, four had predicted that the Congress as the clear winner. Only one Exit poll projected the BJP as the winner. But not a single Exit poll turned out to be true.

But what went wrong for the BJP? Under General Khanduri’s leadership, Uttarakhand enacted two landmark anti-graft legislations – the Lokayukta Bill and the Right to Public Services legislation. Uttarkhand is the first state in the country to bring a strong and effective Lokayukta Bill. But the anti-graft legislations could not converted into desired number of votes to win the Assembly elections.

In this Assembly election, the BJP was not only fighting against Congress, but it was a “fight within” for the saffron party as well. It may look little difficult to decipher, in case of BJP, there was a tough fight between Khanduri’s anti-corruption agenda and Nishank’s corruption saga. And finally it was the Nishank’s corruption saga which was the winner.

It was Khanduri who had led the party to victory in the 2007 Assembly elections and was subsequently chosen as the Chief Minister. However, he was booted out after the party performed poorly in the 2009 general election. Marred with internal dissent, amid the growing ‘Remove Khanduri’ chorus, he quit taking responsibility for the poll debacle.

Ramesh Pokhariyal ‘Nishank’ was inducted as the Chief Minister. But Nishank’s tenure had pushed the saffron party to the wall amid allegations of a series of scams. A couple of months before the Assembly elections, the BJP central leadership replaced Khanduri as Chief Minister in a tearing hurry to salvage the party’s sagging image in the state.

Khanduri tried to clean up the mess done by his predecessor. After taking over as the Chief Minister for the second time, Khanduri had done enough for BJP to bring it back in a fighting mode. Thanks to Khanduri, the BJP managed to salvage its prestige by giving a tough fight to Congress. But that did not work to the hilt of winning the election.

It is the BJP which needs to be blamed for its own defeat. It was wrong to remove Khanduri as the Chief Minister in the first place. Second, it was a blunder to induct Nishank as Chief Minister. Third, it was too late to re-induct Khanduri. It was the dithering attitude of the BJP central leadership which proved to be a bane for the saffron party. The saffron party has to do a lot of atma chintan(introspection).

But why did Congress manage a water-thin edge over the BJP? Can the anti-corruption babble against Nishank regime be attributed for making Congress the single largest party? Don’t forget that as a matter of fact, as many as 70 scams from the ND Tiwari rule are still haunting the Congress. Or it is the internal squabbling in the state BJP which indirectly benefited the Congress?

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