April 20, 2014

UTTARAKHAND & LOK SABHA 2014


WHICH WAY WILL THE HILL STATE SWING?


In 2012, the hill state of Uttarakhand witnessed perhaps the closest state elections since the one held in Goa ten years ago (Link). The BJP which was in power brought back B C Khanduri fearful of the numerous corruption allegations against the incumbent CM Pokhriyal. The 'Khanduri hain Zarori' campaign of the saffron party almost worked. On the other hand, the Congress made life difficult for itself thanks to all the infighting amongst its several state leaders. Luckily for it though, it managed to finish with one more seat than the BJP as Khanduri himself lost his from his constituency (Link). The INC did form the government and the party high command hand picked Vijay Bahuguna - the MP from Tehri Garhwal to lead the state. However, the friction amongst state party leaders continued as the CM's son lost the Tehri Garhwal by-polls in 2012. Then came the big blow last years as parts of the state were devastated by cloud burst. With the state government coming under attack from various quarters for its shrody implementation of relief work, the party replaced Bahuguna by Harish Singh Rawat (Link). Will this gamble pay-off or does the BJP hold the edge before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. That is the subject of this post.

ISSUES

(1) The 2013 floods: In June 2013, the state of Uttarakhand received heavy rains causing floods mainly concentrated around the holy town of Kedarnath. The disaster caused mainly due to disregards to environmental issues completely destroyed the holy town and nearly 6000 people are presumed to be dead. The calamity has caused damages worth crores of rupees and has also adversely affected tourism - an important source of livelihood for the people here. The efforts of the state government in rehabilitating people has come under severe criticism. This is expected to be a major poll issue.

(2) Anti-incumbency of UPA II: The disastrous performance of the UPA government is the poll plank of the BJP in the hill state. The saffron outfit is highlighting the short comings of the incumbent government including corruption, price rise and inflation. Besides, the party is also trying to cash in the Modi wave to get the votes.

CONTENDERS

(1) Congress: In 2009, Uttarakhand was one state where the INC white washed the BJP 5-0. Three years later, it managed to scrap through and form the government in Dehradun too. However, after that hard fought win nothing has gone in its favor. The INC is hopeful that the change in regime will somehow work in its favor. However, it was dealt a severe blow when its MP Satpal Maharaj left the INC and joined the saffron camp. In true Congress tradition, the grand old party has given tickets to former CM Bahuguna's son Saket Bahuguna from Tehri Garhwal and incumbent CM's wife Renuka Rawat from Haridwar. Senior state leader Harak Singh Rawat has filed his nomination from Garhwal.

(2) Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP): Apart from the Modi wave, the saffronists are relying on the anti-incumbency against the ruling regime to work in its favor. With Satpal Maharaj joining it, the cadre are upbeat and are pretty sure to reverse that disastrous defeat of 2009. Three of the party's former CM are in the fray including B C Khanduri (Garhwal), Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank (Haridwar) and Bhagat Singh Koshiyari (Nainital). The incumbent MP from Tehri Garhwal Raj Laxmi who had beaten Saket Bahuguna in the 2012 has been retained.

Others: The Aam Admi Party (AAP) too is contesting the polls and has fielded candidates in at least three seats. The Samajwadi Party (SP) as well as the Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) are set to contest the polls from Uttarakhand.

PAST PERFORMANCES

In the first state elections in 2002, it was the Congress which emerged as the clear winner by just crossing the half way mark. In the next legislative polls, it was the saffron outfit that finished as the single largest party with 34 seats and formed the government with the help of the regional players and independents. Two years ago, in a close contest, the INC nearly spoiled its own chances as it scrapped by a resurgent BJP. The UKD has never managed to break big in the state thanks to internal splits and differences between leaders. Meanwhile, in 2009 Lok Sabha, the Congress did a clean sweep whereas the saffron camp won 3 seats in 2004.

Political Party2012 SE2009 LE2007 SE2004 LE2002 SE
1Congress32521136
2Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)31-34319
3Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP)3-8-7
4Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKD)1-3-4
5Others (SP/IND)3-314

(1) Uttarakhand sends 70 seats to the state legislative assembly.
(2) The state has 5 parliamentary seats.

MY PREDICTIONS

The shoddy implementation of relief work after the 2013 flash floods and general anti-incumbency against the UPA government has put the Congress on the back foot.

Political PartyExpected Seats
1Congress0-1
2Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)4-5

WATCH OUT

(1) The stability of the Uttarakhand government: Presently, Congress has 33 MLAs in the state assembly whereas the BJP has 30 seats. The INC has taken the support of the UKD and the independents to form the government. However, the defection of Satpal Maharaj to the saffron camp has changed the equation. If the NDA does win the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, you can expect Satpal loyalists to follow their leader into the BJP. It will not take long for either the lone UKD MLA or the independents to change their allegiance. In that situation, one can expect a regime change in Dehradun. You see a lot depends on the results.

Other posts in this series:
(1) Karnataka & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(2) Rajasthan & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(3) Maharashtra & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(4) Goa & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(5) Kerala & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(6) Assam & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(7) Tripura & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(8) Haryana & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(9) Chhattisgarh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(10) Jammu Kashmir & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(11) Madhya Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(12) Telangana & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(13) Bihar & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(14) Jharkhand & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(15) Sikkim & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(16) Arunachal Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(17) Nagaland & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(18) Manipur & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(19) Meghalaya & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(20) Mizoram & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(21) Delhi & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(22) Gujarat & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(23) Himachal Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(24) Punjab & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(25) Bengal & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(26) Odisha & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(27) Tamil Nadu & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(28) Andhra & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(29) Uttar Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)