Congress committed hara kiri in Uttarakhand

Dehradun : The Congress has no one but itself to blame for not having wrested Uttarakhand from the BJP, by getting a simple majority on its own. And though it could take solace from the fact that even the BJP could not repeat its government, with the people electing a hung assembly, but the fact remains that the Congress gave away what was given to it on a platter.

Two simple factors were the reason for the Congress not getting a simple majority and forming the government. The first reason was that it lacked aggressive campaigning and the state leadership, comprising the likes of Harish Rawat, Satpal Maharaj, Vijay Bahuguna, Harak Singh Rawat and Yashpal Arya did not have the confidence on taking the campaign at their own level.

The result of this was that there was total dependence upon the central leadership during the entire election campaign. One could see the likes of Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, Anand Sharma, Virbhadra Singh and a number of other central party leaders criss-crossing the state, whereas the state leadership was only playing tag. They were tagging to the central leaders during their public meetings.

Second reason for not being able to get a simple majority is that there is not a single Congress leaders in Uttarakhand who has the mass base to traverse the length and breadth of the state and seek votes for the party. They may make tall claims of their popularity in the state, but the fact remains that not one right from Harish Rawat to Vijay Bahuguna can draw the crowds to public meetings.

And even the veteran leader in his eighties, former union minister, governor and Uttarakhand chief minister, N.D. Tiwari was unable to convince the voters to vote Congress either in Garhwal or Kumaon. This is evident from the fact that both his hand-picked candidates, Manish Tiwari and U Sharma lost. While Tiwari lost in Kumaon, Sharma lost from Sahaspur in Dehra dun district.

In contrast, the BJP that was not even giving itself 15 seats when Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank was chief minister of the state, managed to salvage its position considerably and come neck-to-neck with the Congress, with the BJP high command replacing Nishank and putting B C Khanduri in his place. The so-called clean and honest image of Khanduri was played to the hilt and he was made the façade and mascot for the BJP in Uttarakhand which paid rich dividends.

Political observers here admit that over-confidence in the state Congress leaders got the better of the party in the elections. They were so confident that the incumbency factor against the ruling BJP would sink the party that they did not even try to work overtime and launch an aggressive all out to win.

The result is for all to see. Rather than forming the government on its own, the party will be hobnobbing with the BSP or the independents, which include its own rebels like Mantri Prasad Naithani who contested as an independent from Devprayag and won, to come to power in this small mountain state.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

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