'War Of Nerves' In Uttarakhand As Countdown To Counting Ends

Prominent among those contesting the polls include state’s Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami contesting from Khatima, former Congress CM Harish Rawat from Lalkuwan, senior Congress leader Pritam Singh from Chakrata.

BJP rally in Uttarakhand

As counting of votes is underway in Uttarakhand, ruling BJP and Congress – the next staunch contender for power in the state on Wednesday gave final touches to their strategies to deal with any possibility emerging from the poll results on Thursday.  

The polling for 70 assembly seats in the state’s 13 districts in two divisions of Garhwal and Kumaon were held on February 14, registering a high turn–out of 65.37 per cent with women outnumbering male voters, 67.20 per cent and 62.60 per cent respectively. It is yet to be seen as a higher turnout of women will influence the poll outcome in the BJP ruled state.

The State's Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) informed that the counting of votes will start at 8 am and all arrangements have been made at notified counting centres in all the districts.

There are a total of 632 candidates in the fray, including 152 independents, whose fates are sealed in the electronic voting machines.

Prominent among those contesting the polls include state’s Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami contesting from Khatima, former Congress Chief Minister Harish Rawat from Lalkuwan, senior Congress leader Pritam Singh from Chakrata, assembly speaker Prem Chand Aggarwal and party chiefs of BJP and Congress Madan Kaushik  (Haridwar) and Ganesh Godhyal (Srinagar) respectively, besides the veteran politician

Satpal Maharaj (Chaubattakhal) and model turned Congress candidate Anukriti Gosain (Lansdowne). Some poll analysts maintain that it will be significant to watch how BSP, AAP and Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKD) really dent the prospects of two national parties -- ie BJP and Congress.

Despite exit polls predicting a favourable trend for the BJP hinting at the return of Pushkar Singh Dhami – breaking 22-yr old jinx but his party is not taking any chance to cobble – up the numbers in case the party fails to get a clear majority.

Thus, its top leaders rushed from Delhi and have already started back-room parleys with potential independents and parties like Uttarakhand Kranti Dal and BSP, say insiders. 

The most curious political turn in the ongoing events before the counting of votes is seen in the entry of BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, who was the brain behind the rebellion in the congress to topple the Harish Rawat government in 2016. His presence has caused quite a panic in the Congress ranks.

“We are fully alert and won’t let Vijayvargiya succeed in his dirty games. The people of Uttarakhand have voted for the Congress. You (BJP) can’t always play mischief with democratically elected MLAs,” he asserted.

Asked if Congress has any plan-B or C in case it falls short of a comfortable majority, Rawat told media persons “We don't need plan A B C ..etc. We are getting a clear majority. We are set to form the government. The people have voted against the BJP, which failed miserably to rule the state and fulfil promises".

Yet, later in the day, he tweeted saying that the Congress was open to taking support of other leaders.

“There are several senior leaders in Uttarakhand, who could not get tickets to contest elections. We will take their support, not just to form the government but to take Uttarakhand forward," Rawat tweeted.

The Congress, during the campaign, had accused the BJP of non-performance, rising inflation, unemployment, migration and political uncertainty—replacing three Chief Ministers.

The party has promised to cap the price of LPG cylinder at Rs 500, filling up of 57,000 vacant posts, 40 per cent reservation in jobs for women in police and giving income support of Rs 40,000 annually for the poor.

Since, the formation of the state Uttarakhand had always voted against the incumbent government thus if the BJP manages to romp home to power, it will be creating a history in the hill state.

Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami on Wednesday again maintained that his party will return to power winning more than 40 seats as the people have faith in the BJP leadership transforming the state into a model of hill development, and infrastructure growth.

He claims that with Narendra Modi at the centre Uttarakhand will progress fast.

Yet, insiders say the BJP is also passing through anxious moments ahead of the counting day as there had been reports about Internal sabotage having been levelled by its own leaders.

Top BJP leaders, throughout the day, remained busy holding meetings to respond to possible scenarios that emerged on February 10.

The BJP had won 57 seats in 2017, which was a record tally in the state but mainly due to the Modi wave. Even this time, the BJP tried to encash on the Modi factor.

The Congress has also rushed several AICC leaders to Dehradun who held a meeting with party candidates. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel is also expected to arrive in Dehradun on Thursday and take care of elected MLAs –who are likely to be moved out of the state quickly to avoid poaching by the ruling party.