When on 4 December Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a rally in Dehradun ahead of the 2022 assembly polls in Uttarakhand, he tweaked the references associated with the term "double engine sarkar" over a sharp improvisation. Normally, the use of the term "double engine sarkar" comes from Prime Minister Modi and the chief ministers of the states ruled by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for highlighting the importance and the outcomes of the Centre-state partnership under the BJP.
Modi addressed this rally inaugurating and laying the foundation of 18 projects worth Rs 18,301 crore including the Rs 8,600 crore Delhi-Dehradun economic corridor. This corridor will be Asia’s biggest elevated wildlife corridor. There will also be a new bridge as an alternative to the Lakshman Jhoola in Rishikesh.
The Dehradun rally saw Modi mention "double engine sarkar" to draw a demarcation between what Uttarakhand gets in the BJP-led Centre-state partnership versus what it could not get in the absence of it. He mentioned the efforts of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee towards empowering the state, indicating that the Centre-state partnership was absent back then owing to a different government at the Centre.
Modi's mention of the absence of the double engine or the partnership during Vajpayee's tenure succeeded in laying across the perception that the efforts for connectivity and infrastructure development in Uttarakhand by Vajpayee could not take off during the 10 years of UPA in contrast to now.
The mention has come at a time when the Congress is campaigning to return to power in the 2022 polls in a fight that has the Aam Aadmi Party wanting to make gains in the state.
Modi's rallies in Uttarakhand are known for his respect-laden gratitude to the women of Uttarakhand. This rally brought the added element and fervour in his mention to the women of the state along with lines spoken in Garhwali and a poem in Hindi dedicated to the state. In recent months, as in the rally at Dehradun, Home Minister Amit Shah and now Modi have shown a collaborative effort in their mention of Vajpayee in their party's emotion for Uttarakhand.
The Parade Ground in Dehradun has witnessed rallies from former prime ministers over the decades. The rallies of PM Modi on the grounds are different for the mood, turn out and the decibels they bring. The playing of Ransingha and dhol damau — the folk musical instruments, and dancing by people — while the PM was delivering his speech — became a new normal at this rally.
Modi's visit to Kedarnath and his rally in Dehradun are two instances where he has encouraged Uttarakhand Chief Minister Puashkar Singh Dhami — verbally and by patting his back. On Saturday (4 December), in an ordinary but distinct gesture, Modi patted Dhami's back as soon as the latter took his seat after making a speech.
The gesture was not missed by the people at the rally. Many cheered when they saw the Prime Minister patting the Chief Minister. The transition —from two former chief ministers in the hill state to now Dhami — was a subject of speculation and doubt in the regional and Delhi media. The point to notice now is that Dhami seems to have shifted himself well, and with small but careful steps, to fit the jigsaw that has Modi as the central piece. The Sunday rally gave an assured sense of trust, 'you can do it', 'we can do more', 'you can do better', in a blend.
In November, Dhami made the much awaited decision of taking back the Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board Bill. It was a task with a deadline. Dhami delivered. Just as he had promised to the communities opposing the bill.
There was a moment at Modi's rally in Dehradun when Dhami gave a long and wide look at the crowds at Parade Ground. The satisfaction on his face was evident and a hint of relief — visible — and noticeable on the screens projected at the venue. After this rally, Dhami would visit Khatima and Kashipur to address people and inaugurate projects in the following days.
Prior to the rally, he was in Rudrapur, where he announced a Rs 119 crore package under National Rural Livelihood Mission for women self help groups. His government's preparedness on the Omicron variant of Covid-19 is catching pace with precautionary measures. Dhami's work towards 2022 will need a caution-laden approach towards retaining the double engine steam and energy he collects from Modi towards protecting his own prospects as the man in lead for BJP in Uttarakhand.
Modi covered the point that the projects from the BJP cover all sectors — health, infrastructure, religious tourism, medicinal herbs. At the dais, among the senior leaders soaking in the speech was former chief minister of the state Trivendra Singh Rawat, the man who pushed the "double engine" for four years and does not expect the credit for.
Uttarakhand politics, especially that of the BJP itself, is made several times about people wanting to join it from Congress and those wanting to leave the BJP from the Congress, by sections of the media. The scenario made itself felt recently, as the state moves closer to 2022 polls.
Modi's gestures towards senior state leaders in the BJP — Satpal Maharaj, Harak Singh Rawat and Vijay Bahuguna as seen this month and during his visit to Kedarnath — assert the obvious — they play a role in their current roles and the roles are valued.
The truth of the moment for the BJP during the 4 December rally could be that Modi launched a quiet and new beginning for them. The beginning is of a campaign that perhaps will see itself upping the work towards highlighting the efforts of the Centre under Vajpayee to the current dispensation led by him towards Uttarakhand. The two time marks are the formation of the state and 2022.
The highlights of this speech in the rally, too, were directed at his government's work and vision for making the next decade the decade of Uttarakhand. That the BJP led governments at the Centre and state are "making up for the lost time" is an important perception he sculpted in words. Infrastructure, the speed of infrastructure and connectivity projects, are the takeaways. That's the rough and conclusive essence of his speech here.
Terming connectivity as the "Mahayagya" in the context of the "lost time", beginning the speech Garhwali, patting the Chief Minister who comes from Kumaon, mentioning the sacred land of Kedarpuri, repeating in Dehradun that this decade belongs to Uttarakhand and connecting the newly inaugurated projects with Uttarakhand's goals is an example of the cultural balance he creates when visiting Uttarakhand.
Towards the end of the rally, this author saw a BJP supporter carry away a cutout of former chief minister Major General (Retd) Bhuwan Chandra Khanduri. On being asked why he was taking it away, he said, "prachaar ke liye". The contributing leaders of the BJP could have their value renewed for the positive work they have brought to Uttarakhand. This has been ensured by Modi and has been asserted by his language focussing on the positive ahead of 2022 at the Dehradun rally.
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