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Uttarakhand Elections 2017: Another photo finish or wave in state?

15 February, 2017 1:36 AM
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Uttarakhand Elections 2017: Another photo finish or wave in state?

In Uttarakhand, both Congress and BJP are exuding confidence that this time the state will give a clear verdict, defying the trend of wafer thin margins.

The claims of the two mainstream parties, which have been alternately ruling the hill state, have gained momentum as polling day approached. The Congress is hopeful that the state will elude even that pattern in this election in the absence of any anti-incumbency wave against chief minister Harish Rawat, while BJP is banking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to swing the election decisively in its favour.

As the campaigning entered its last leg, the BJP organised four PM rallies—two in the plains and two in the hills. Rawat, meanwhile, consistently campaigned everyday projecting himself as one among the people of the state and took on Modi and his government questioning their concern for the hill state.

In a state, where candidates have won by less than five votes and governments have been formed by one seat, the people are reluctant to make any guesses who will form the next government. Of the 70 seats, 69 go to polls on Wednesday.

The BJP had lost the assembly election by one seat in 2012. Its candidate from Ranikhet Ajay Bhatt, the party's state president, defeated his Congress rival Karan Mahara by just 78 votes. Around half a dozen candidates had won by less than 1000 votes.

While the BJP could have got a clear edge taking advantage of anti-incumbency against the Rawat government, the party's strategy of getting on board Congress rebels seems to have disrupted its calculations. The BJP has given tickets to around 15 Congress rebels, creating resentment within the party. In at least eight seats, the BJP is facing tough fights with its rebels, who are fighting as independents.

The defections have left a bitter taste among the voters, several of whom are planning to cast their franchise depending on the candidate instead of party. BJP sources admitted that the rebel factor would hurt the party more than it would trouble the Congress, though it also faced rebellion in around eight seats. The Congress has been trying to drive home the point that it had shed its "tainted" baggage, which the BJP had taken into its house.

If the tally goes into a nail-biting photo finish, the independents could play a crucial role. The BJP, which had won all five Lok Sabha seats in 2014 elections, has been reminding the state that Uttarakhand was formed during the Vajpayee regime. The party, which has half a dozen chief ministerial aspirants, refrained from projecting any of them to take on Rawat, who has himself said that Modi was the BJP's best bet.

Rawat, a leader from Kumaon, focused on the Garhwal region. He has been accusing the Centre of ignoring the state when it went through the deluge in 2013. Modi and Rawat have been taking on each other in their public meetings, making it a fight between the Prime Minister and the chief minister.


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