Uttarakhand: Why CM Pushkar Singh Dhami's Champawat Bypoll Is More About The MLA Who Lost Khatima

Uttarakhand: Why CM Pushkar Singh Dhami's Champawat Bypoll Is More About The MLA Who Lost Khatima

by Sumati Mehrishi - Jun 1, 2022 08:15 PM +05:30 IST
Uttarakhand: Why CM Pushkar Singh Dhami's Champawat Bypoll Is More About The MLA Who Lost KhatimaUttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami
  • Champawat, along with the adjacent constituency Khatima, bears cultural and political importance to Uttarakhand, and to CM Dhami's own political journey.

The Bharatiya Janata Party in Uttarakhand is confident of winning the Champawat assembly by-election held on May 31. The by-poll is crucial for the BJP as well as Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami after he lost the Khatima state assembly poll held in February.

Dhami lost the state assembly election to Bhuwan Chandra Kapri of Congress.

He filed his nomination for the bypoll after BJP MLA Kailash Gahtori resigned from the Champawat assembly seat in order to make way for Dhami. Gahtori, twice a winner from Champawat, described his coming forward to vacate the seat for Dhami, as the 'duty of a soldier'. The Congress, BJP's main opponent, fielded Nirmala Gehtori for the contest.

The BJP has put its weight behind Dhami at different junctures since 2021 in his role as the top leader in the hill state. If Dhami wins the Champawat bypoll, the BJP might try to push back the Congress on its Khatima upset, reminding the Congress that the party is backing the chief minister in all the loops and curves of the hill state's politics.

This report on the Times of India website mentions that Kapri, Dhami's winning opponent from Khatima, was "not among the party’s star campaigners for the Champawat bypoll."

BJP leader in Uttarakhand Deepti Rawat Bhardwaj worked in Champawat along with other leaders from the hill state at different stages of a long campaign. She told Swarajya over the phone that it seemed that the voters, and workers of the BJP, took upon themselves the task of making CM Dhami forget the defeat in Khatima.

She added that many people said that they would not let a repeat of Khatima (2022 election) happen to CM Dhami. "This was a spontaneous and natural response from the people of Champawat. The party went into micro-management with the local workers taking charge as proud panna pramukhs. It was the CM's constituency, so, many people wanted to come to Champawat and campaign. Party to ek-jutt thee hee saath mein aur party ke loag (people supporting other parties), were willing to vote for the BJP."

Senior BJP leader in Uttarakhand Suresh Joshi told Swarajya over the phone: "Voters and the BJP workers in Champawat not only wanted to make Dhami win, but they also want to ensure he wins by a good margin at each booth. There is a competition between booths there on which booth makes CM Dhami win bigger and better. Dhami's own personality, communication and BJP's work in the state are some factors that will come into play. It will be a good victory."

The reasons and dynamics for BJP's confidence in Dhami as CM have been covered by this author here, here, and here.

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath campaigned for Dhami in Tanakpur. The effects of Yogi Adityanath's presence during BJP's campaign in the state assembly election were evident in Pauri district in particular. Dhami is known for being a popular leader among the youth and women voters. With Yogi Adityanath's roadshow in Tanakpur, the BJP has been able to stitch a new visual impression in the mind of voters -- that of Yogi-Dhami partnership in the region and in Champawat.

Much water has flown in the state between the state assembly poll and the Champawat by-poll in BJP's favour. The Aam Aadmi Party has seen its CM-post aspirant joining the BJP, Dhami himself has been able to pitch himself on the "sakaratmak" (constructive and positive) work perception as the CM of Uttarakhand, and the state BJP leaders have witnessed convincing energy on the booths for the by-poll; the Congress seems not being able to match the BJP's rigour in the state.

Champawat (Almora Lok Sabha constituency) lies in Kumaon, the region where Dhami has fought his earlier elections from. Champawat, along with the adjacent constituency Khatima, bears cultural and political importance to the state as it is part of the district on the international border facing Nepal.

If Dhami wins the election from Champawat, Kumaon and Champawat in particular will come back in the state's narrative in a unique manner for BJP and Dhami. Health facilities and unhampered road connectivity during the rains in the Champawat assembly constituencies are two prime issues that concern the voters.

These two issues might serve as the first test for Dhami if he wins.

Khatima will play an important role in the background from this point in Uttarakhand's politics and Dhami's own journey as CM.

The Election Commision of India mentions that the voter turnout in Champawat stood at 62.12 per cent (64 per cent, reports say). Result will be declared on 3 June.

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

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