Tehri by-elections to test nations mood on reforms

Dehradun : The by-election to the Tehri parliamentary segment is in no way going to be a referendum on the Congress-led governments both at the centre and in Uttarakhand, but it will definitely indicate whether the popularity graph of the party is on a downward or an upward trend.

More importantly it will also tell how people they have taken to the reforms proposed by the Manmohan Singh government and whether they are willing to shoulder the burden of the reforms.

The Tehri parliamentary segment, which comprises of 14 assembly segments is mixed between the hill areas and the plains of this small mountain state.

More importantly it is also divided into urban and rural electorate, some of it living in the very remote interiors of the state, where the media does not have a very stellar role to play.

True, that the residents of the villages may not be that literate to gauge the impact of the reforms, but they definitely will be under the burden of price rise.

Interstingly both the Congress and the BJP share six assembly segments apiece, while the Yamnotri seat is with the UKD (P), which is a partner in the state coalition government, and the other Tehri is held by an independent, who is also siding with the government.

Whether the independent believes in the policies and programs of the Congress, or has he been lured into the government by promises, is not public, but he too will have to do a rethink, should it be a victory for the BJP at Tehri.

Of these 14 assembly segments, the maximum seven fall in Dehradun, which is the state capital and where there is maximum impact of the policies of the state and central governments.

The diesel price hike, removing the cap on subsidized LPG cylinders and allowing FDI in retail has been taken rather with a pinch of salt by the masses.

It is obvious that the people are against all of them, but will this anger transform into negative votes for the Congress, only time will tell.

Then there are some decisions of the state government, which have also impacted the government employees. The major one is the non-implementation of the Supreme Court directives on reservation in promotion.

The state government has dilly-dallied on the issue for quite some time by forming a sub-committee on the matter and not even implementing the Uttarakhand High Court’s decision in the matter. This anger too could or could also reflect in negative voting.

And last but not the least is the seething discontent amongst the ex-servicemen over their demand of one rank one pension.

The centre has announced a Rs 2300 crores pension package for the ex-military personnel and even publicized it widely as meeting the demand of one ran one pension, but senior ex-servicemen have said it is far short of their demand.

Whether or not, this will make an impact on the ex-servicemen, which comprises a large vote bank in the state, only time will tell.

But taking the vote percentage of the last vidhan sabha elections, the Congress has got maximum support in Chakrata and Vikasnagar assembly segments, where it polled 50.56 and 48.34 percent of the votes.

Will the Munna Singh Chauhan factor, who recently joined the BJP make a dent and to what extent time will tell, but the Congress is definitely likely to see s substantial drop in the votes from here during the parliamentary by-poll.

As for the BJP it got its maximum vote in the Ghansali assembly segment, which was almost 58.64 of the total votes polled. But if former minister Matbar Singh Kandari, who quit the BJP and joined the Congress recently can make an impact here, the votes could go down.

It is also to be seen whether the voting trend in the Tehri by-poll this time will be for the political parties, or for personality of the contestants who are in the fray or most importantly on issues that feel are important for their very survival.

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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