Uttarakhand: Five Trends And Myths That Were Broken In 2022

by Sumati Mehrishi - Mar 15, 2022 06:48 PM +05:30 IST
Uttarakhand: Five Trends And Myths That Were Broken In 2022 A BJP rally in Uttarakhand (2022)

From BJP and Congress alternating in government, to Harish Rawat's purported influence in Kumaon—here are five 'myths' and trends that were busted in 'Uttarakhand 2022'.

A month after the assembly election was held in Uttarakhand, here are some major myths that were created in sections of the media. They stand bursted and de-bubbled.

1. No Same Party Has Returned To Power in Uttarakhand, So BJP Won't

For the first time, a party has won a term in succession. Uttarakhand has voted the BJP back to power. It's a mandate for the positive changes that have been initiated by BJP's Centre-state partnership. It is a mandate for
continuity.

"Janata chunaav lad rahi hai '' was being said by the BJP in the context of Uttar Pradesh. The janata, women in particular, seems to have fought it for the BJP in Uttarakhand as well even when several in the party had doubts about returning to power.

What created those doubts? Media narrative, successive change of guard in BJP with two new chief ministers, BJP's opposition, discontentment on some under performing MLAs (BJP workers received this feedback in Kumaon).

What applies to Rajasthan necessarily would not apply to Uttarakhand.
What applies to Congress and the BJP in Rajasthan would not to
Uttarakhand. This was easy to understand at four different junctures.

First in 2014, when PM Narendra Modi and his interventions in 2013
influenced and energised Uttarakhand BJP for 2014 (Lok Sabha election)
and 2016 (when a chunk of Congress leaders would sense the tectonic
shift and walk over to the BJP) towards the 2017 assembly polls.

Next, in the 2017 assembly poll, when the BJP would sweep it with 57/70.
Next in 2019 Lok Sabha polls - 5/5. Next, in 2021 for 2022.

Emotion and intent, promise and development, schemes and change on ground stood by Narendra Modi, Pushkar Dhami and the BJP against several odds that made the BJP appear "fight anti-incumbency". Modi was confident. Kedarnath stayed in focus for many reasons.

The BJP has returned to power with 47 seats, standing at 43.33 per cent vote share. The percentage of women voters in Uttarakhand was at 67.20 per cent against 62.60 per cent for men in 2022 (a striking factor that gave BJP the first indication of relief on the polling day itself). In the hills, the gap has spoken of factors much beyond the Ujjwala Yojana, as the mainstream media usually puts it, and has given the BJP another chance -- this time to continue with the work initiated.

November and December 2021 pretty much helped the Bharatiya Janata
Party arrive at the conclusion that it would break the 'trend' of 'paanch saal Congress, paanch saal BJP'. Pushkar Singh Dhami as the chief minister got endorsed by PM Modi as Uttarakahnd's "yuva neta". Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced from a rally in Dehradun that the coming decade would be the decade of Uttarakhand.

Prior to this, Modi had inaugurated a 12-foot statue of Adi Shankaracharya in Kedarnath, inaugurated re-development projects worth Rs 130 crore at Kedarnath. The Rs 400-crore Kedarpuri reconstruction project -- Modi's dream project sees him personally reviewing the progress. Continuity of these projects, along with the arterial and infrastructural projects, was a concern among voters.

Everything that took BJP to win in 2019, including Jan Dhan, Ayushman Bharat, OROP, arrival of Har Ghar Jal and new AIIMs, the ongoing vaccination drive to fight Covid, stood by Dhami.

In 2021, the Congress held a rally in Dehradun, where it paid the tribute to CDS General Bipin Rawat, but by then Mussoorie MLA Ganesh Joshi's initiative towards the Sainya Dham -- the projected fifth dham in Uttarakhand with CDS General Bipin Rawat as the emotional core had registered itself for intent, message and turnout. The event was attended by defence minister Rajnath Singh and the Minister of State in the Ministry of Defence Ajay Bhatt (MP Naintal-Udham Singh Nagar in Kumaon, Uttarakhand). The Congress and AAP were audible, but the strength was not enough to break the BJP's return.

2. AAP will be a 'teesra vikalp' in Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand has rejected the AAP once more. It lost deposits on 55 seats in 2022 and stands at nil with a 3.31 per cent vote share. In Kumaon, which sections of the media said would reflect the impact of the farmer's protest against the BJP, naturally creating possibilities for AAP's rise, the AAP failed to make an entry.

The Aam Aadmi party has been trying to make some space for itself in the hill state since 2014. Anger against the BJP and the Congress, particularly in patches in upper Garhwal and Kumaon rightly gave it the hope.

In 2019, there were murmurs on why Col (Retd) Ajay Kothiyal was not joining the BJP. He eventually joined the AAP to become the only CM candidate who comes from the Armed Forces. Naturally, in Uttarakhand, he was expected to make the best of the sentiment for his background.

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and other leaders from AAP visited the hill state for campaigns and rallies, but the results did not support the effort. In
Gangotri, which was posed by several sections of the media as taken by
AAP, Col (Retd) Ajay Kothiyal was distant third at just 6,161 votes and
10.33 per cent vote share. The BSP performed better than AAP in vote share and won two seats.

Then, sections of the media also said that the BJP had come up with Dhami as CM to counter the effect of Col (Retd) Kothiyal in wooing the youth. Dhami becoming CM did work for the BJP and perhaps shadowed the AAP.

3. Heavyweights leaving the BJP for Congress will bite BJP

The victory of the BJP in Yamkeshwar, Nainital and in Tehri will be remembered more than the much hyped exit of heavyweight leaders from
BJP to Congress.

Sections of the media were engrossed (almost obsessed) by speculations on Umesh Sharma -- popularly known as Kau -- the BJP leader and candidate from Raipur seat leaving the BJP for Congress. Eventually, Kau defeated veteran Congress leader Hira Singh Bisht by 30,052 votes -- the largest margin in Uttarakhand (Kau's edge visible if not evident in rallies and on polling day itself).

Yashpal Arya left the BJP with son Sanjeev Arya. Congress was elated. Much was said about the caste-related prospects of Yashpal Arya vis-a-vis the rise of Channi in Punjab. The move proved costly. Sarita Arya left the Congress for BJP. Got a ticket from the BJP and emerged winner from Nainital -- a reserved seat. Sanjeev Arya lost Nainital. Yashpal Arya won Bajpur with bigger ambitions dashed.

Kishore Upadhyay joined BJP, got a ticket in the last list, and won Tehri. Harak Singh Rawat, after all the long-winding fuss about his expected jump to Congress was eventually expelled from the BJP. Did not get a ticket from Congress. His daughter-in-law lost in Lansdowne.

His influence on all Vidhan Sabha seats in the Pauri Garhwal emerged
as a work of fiction. Ritu Bhushan Khanduri, in a shift from Yamkeshwar to Kotdwar, despite the Harak Singh Rawat-related factors in Kotdwar, and several local factors, won.

BJP's opponents were too engrossed by defections and emotions of the past defections.

4. 'Harda' will win clinch Kumaon for Congress

Harish Rawat is popularly known as 'Harda' in Uttarakhand. The former
chief minister will have to give answers to the party high command in Delhi after its defeat in Uttarakhand. He was upset with the high command in Delhi last year. He wanted to lead the party's campaign in the hill state. All this gave rise to a bubble -- that Rawat looked in a strong position and was bigger than the newbie Dhami (also from Kumaon).

Rawat is known for his popularity in Kumaon. He was expected to turn it around for Congress in the wake of the farmer's protests and the Gairsain issue that had led to the leadership crisis in the BJP. Rawat eventually lost in Lalkuan (Dhami lost Khatima). Congress did not exceed the BJP in Kumaon. BJP has won 18/29. Congress has won 11. Congress failed to make use of all the odds against the BJP in Kumaon.

5. Trivendra Singh Rawat's Past and Present Will Eclipse Doiwala Contest

Trivendra Singh Rawat (was MLA from Doiwala) stepped away several times between 2021 and 2022 from Uttarakhand and BJP's fight towards 2022. This includes his resignation as CM. This includes taking a step away from contesting in 2022 (many said that feedback from ground was not favouring him).

When his close associate Brij Bhushan Gairola was given a ticket, many said that it would prove to be detrimental to Gairola and the BJP. Many doubted if the BJP will retain the seat in the presence of a resurgent Congress, and a prominent independent candidate who had exited from the BJP.

Gairola won with a margin of 29,021 votes. Did Rawat's influence work against him? Gairola stands at 57.22 per cent vote share. Rawat supported him wholeheartedly. This certainly doesn't say anything about Rawat or his term as chief minister. Or, does it?

Sumati Mehrishi is Senior Editor, Swarajya. She tweets at @sumati_mehrishi 

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