Modi rallies draw winds out of Congress sails in Uttarakhand

Dehra Dun : It was generally widely presumed that the Modi factor is irrelevant in the upper reaches of Uttarakhand, where there is less media reach, but if the turnout at his rallies in Srinagar, Rudrapur and Almora in this small hill state on Saturday was any indication, the BJP prime ministerial candidate has made more than inroads even in nooks and corners.

Narendra Modi addressing Bharat Vijay Rally in Srinagar (Uttarakhand)
Narendra Modi addressing Bharat Vijay Rally in Srinagar (Uttarakhand)

Even the state Congress leaders seemed to be taken aback by the more than expected crowds at the public meetings. This was perhaps the reason that Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat, whose wife Renuka Rawat is the Congress candidate from the Haridwar Lok Sabha seat, was prompted to say that, “Modi may be drawing the crowds, but they will not transform unto votes.”

The four rallies, the fourth was addressed in Roorkee in the plains of this small hill state, which falls in the Haridwar parliamentary constituency, has the Congress think tank working overtime to evolve a strategy to counter what is now being widely seen as a clear Modi factor sweeping through the hills that could turn the tide into BJP favor in all the five Lok Sabha seats in this small hill state.

Not that there were any doubts earlier, but riding the Modi factor, complacency had set into the BJP rank and file in Uttarakhand and one could see that the Congress workers were charged up because of the low profile of the BJP workers. In fact in all the five constituencies it was mostly the BJP candidates and their close supporters that were busy campaigning.

This was perhaps why even the chief minister was encouraged to say that the Congress is in a fight in all the five parliamentary constituencies and could even win. But the four rallies of Modi on Saturday has the state Congress leaders thinking yet again, as the growing optimism in the party rank and file seems to have suddenly waned after the public meetings.

In fact, efforts are now focused on ensuring that the rally of UPA chairperson and Congress president Sonia Gandhi to be held at Roorkee today (Sunday) draws at least a similar response if not a bigger crowd. The state leaders have fanned out into the region to muster the crowds, lest a message goes to the people that the crowd that there is a different edge towards the BJP.

The issue becomes pertinent in as much that Uttarakhand chief minister’s wife is the party candidate from Haridwar Lok Sabha seat in which Roorkee falls and Harish Rawat replaced Vijay Bahuguna as the chief minister, as he had given the indication to the party high command that he could manage to win all the five Lok Sabha seats in the state.

Moreover Renuka Rawat, the chief minister’s wife who is the Congress candidate from Haridwar has in her public meetings been touting to vote for her and get the chief minister for free. This has been taken exception to be some of the state Congress leaders who feel that she may be undermining the position of the chief minister by making such a ‘buy one get one free’ offer.

Coming to the Modi rallies, eye witnesses present claim that they had hardly ever seen such turnouts at any public meetings in the upper reaches of Uttarakhand as were witnessed on Saturday in Modi’s public meetings. They went to the extent of saying that the numbers were far more than what one saw at the public meetings of former Prime ministers Indira Gandhi and Atal Behari Vajpayee.

The only parallel they could draw was when they claimed that the crowds at the Srinagar rally were almost the same as one saw when son-of-the-soil came to the city to address his maiden public meeting after being sworn in as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh (Uttarakhand) was then part of Uttar Pradesh.

 

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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