Riding on a strong pro-incumbency and Modi-magic, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) broke a big jinx to register a record victory in Uttarakhand, for the second consecutive time, to form its government in the state. But, the man at the centre of this huge victory is Pushkar Singh Dhami, 46, who was made the chief minister of the hill state barely six months before the Assembly elections. However, he lost to Bhuwan Chandra Kapri of the Congress at Khatima in Udham Singh Nagar district.
The victory of the BJP in Uttarakhand, which came in the backdrop of unsavoury controversies involving two former chief ministers –Trivendra Singh Rawat and Tirath Singh Rawat, holds significance for the saffron party, which has stormed back to power in Uttar Pradesh, Manipur and Goa.
“It is definitely a remarkable victory for the BJP, which has bucked a myth that the incumbent party can never rule for the second consecutive time. The number of seats in the 70-member Assembly may have come down to 47-48 from earlier 57 won in 2017 yet, it has a clear stamp of Dhami," says Jay Singh Rawat, a veteran journalist and writer.
Thus, he doesn’t rule out the possibilities of Dhami still being in the reckoning for the chief ministerial position once the BJP high command takes a call on new leadership in the state.
BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, who was camping in Dehradun ahead of the poll results, also gave full marks to Dhami for the party’s victory and the way he worked for the past six months, despite lacking any past experience to be at the helm of affairs in the government or even a cabinet minister.
In fact, when Dhami was chosen for the chief ministerial post in July 2021, the party, in its mind, had a long term plan of building up new leadership in the hill state, which still struggles with issues around development, unemployment, farming turning uneconomic in Garhwal areas resulting in a mass migration from the villages –known as “ghost villages”.
Two-time former MLA Dhami, who hailed from the Kumaon region, was decidedly BJP’s best choice to make penetrations in the Congress fortress as the party already holds a strong foothold in the Garhwal belt. Earlier both its Chief Ministers Trivendra Singh Rawat and Tirath Singh Rawat were from Garhwal.
Thus, the party insiders also hint at Dhami – a Thakur getting a role to lead new government -- though the BJP in a similar situation, did not make former Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal the chief minister after he lost the 2017 Assembly polls despite being a party face for the post.
In the elections, the Congress has suffered a major blow as veteran leader and former Chief Minister Harish Rawat lost the election to Dr Mohan Singh Bisht of the BJP by 17,527 votes. Rawat’s daughter Anupama Rawat, however, won the Haridwar seat by a margin of 4,472 votes.
Anukriti Gosain Rawat, a model-turned-Congress candidate and daughter of former minister Harak Singh Rawat also lost the Lansdowne seat by a margin of 9,868 votes.
Though the people seem to have voted for the BJP largely in the name of Modi and benefits such as the free ration scheme but mega infrastructure projects like Char Dham and new railway line, Rishikesh–Kanaprayag, also weighed strongly.
Jay Singh Rawat says the BJP also took advantage of the polarisation of the voters on the communal lines as the party’s social media machinery highlighted the Congress’s covert plan to set up a Muslim university and encourage “land jihad” to disturb the demographic structure in ‘Dev-Bhoomi'. The reference of the same was also made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Garhwal rally.
“This pushed aside all issues of anti-incumbency, Inflation, unemployment, migration and corruption," he had said.