A strong leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi backed by a robust organisational set up helped the BJP come up with its best ever performance in Uttarakhand where even sitting chief minister Harish Rawat lost both seats, Hardwar (Rural) and Kichha assembly constituencies.
There are many firsts this time in Uttarakhand. Since its inception in 2000, no ruling party in Uttarakhand has ever got more seats than 36 seats out of 71. Congress bagged 36 seats in 2002, BJP 34 in 2004 and Congress 32 in 2012. But 2017, BJP outwitted many in this race too.
For the first time, a prime minister addressed five rallies in Uttarakhand this time. In the past elections, a prime minister has held maximum two rallies. This time the silent voters showed unflinching faith on “bold” Modi by casting decisive votes despite demonetisation. Modi’s way of campaign, connecting directly with the people and speaking their kind of language, also helped the BJP.
Harish Rawat’s one-man army show, not consulting any party leader or feedback from grassroot workers appear to have boomeranged on his face. Besides, a possible internal sabotage might have worked against him especially by those who didn’t leave the party along with MLAs who shifted their loyalty to the BJP but were terribly disillusioned with Rawat’s functioning.
The Congress in the state today has no local important face except Harish Rawat. Other known faces have already shifted their loyalties to the BJP. Around nine to ten prominent legislators had shifted to the BJP before assembly elections along with minister Yashpal Arya and his son, Vijay Bahuguna and his son, etc. Although senior Bahuguna didn’t contest, BJP gave ticket to his son Saket.
Harak Singh Rawat who was leading the anti-Rawat campaign last year was also given ticket from Kotdwar. Even Satpal Maharaj, former MP and former MoS at the Centre, also shifted his loyalty to the BJP. Majority of those who shifted their loyalty from Congress to the BJP were given tickets.
Rawat had many issues before him. He was already facing anti-incumbency when BJP tried to dislodge him last year. His strategy to shift from hills to the valley this time was also taken with a pinch of salt. His regional and caste politics compounded with sting operation of corruption opened can of worms. Even those who did not believe in sheer hearsay, sting operation was one more nail in the coffin.
However, Uttarakhand has also brought one issue into light which will become future discourse -- Congress rebels bringing in Congress culture like dynastic politics in the BJP and RSS apparently is not very comfortable with the idea.