Division of anti-establishment votes may benefit BJP in the hill state.


New Delhi: Aam Aadmi Party’s chief ministerial candidate Col. Ajay Kothiyal may spoil the electoral chances of the Congress in Uttarakhand. The AAP seems to be fully prepared to make its presence felt in the Assembly elections of Uttarakhand where the Congress and BJP have been in direct contest so far. Both the parties have been voted to power alternatively.

If the contest happens to be a triangular one, then the Congress may have to suffer loss in the hill state. Observers believe that if AAP’s CM face Kothiyal manages to get a good chunk of votes, then the electoral fight will be extremely interesting. What remains to be seen is the issues that the AAP goes to the polls with. In what augurs well for BJP, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami appears to have been successful in improving the image of the ruling party. He is said to be doing well. Congress has projected former CM Harish Rawat as its chief ministerial candidate. Congress is pinning hopes on Rawat who is no doubt a well-known face.

But the political game plan of the BJP and AAP seems to have created problems for Rawat. BJP appointing CM Pushkar Singh Dhami from the Kumaon region already came as a challenge for the Congress. Again, another leader from Kumaon Ajay Bhatt was inducted in the cabinet of the central government. So, the BJP has made inroads in what is said to be Rawat’s stronghold. Rawat belongs to Kumaon which was behind the Congress’ good performance in 2012 elections. Apart from BJP, Rawat may face problems because of Ranjeet Singh Rawat, who was once his close confidant. Congress was expecting to benefit from BJP’s alleged neglect of the Garhwal division, but AAP’s choice of Col. Kothiyal came up as a challenge for the grand old party in Uttarakhand. Although Kothiyal is a politically inexperienced person, he commands respect by virtue of being educated and from an army background. He is known for his valour while fighting terrorists. He also played an important role in reconstruction of Kedarnath after the natural calamity. There was a speculation about Kothiyal joining the BJP or Congress during the last election. Finally, AAP bet on Kothiyal, given his respectable image. Kothiyal is from the Garhwal division where he is understood to have a considerable influence. He may damage Congress prospects in the Garhwal region which accounts for 41 out of total 70 Assembly seats.

With Kothiyal as CM face, AAP dent the vote bank of Congress in Dehradun, Haridwar, Tihari, Uttarkashi and Paudi of Garhwal division. Once the votes against the government get divided, it will benefit the BJP. There is no denying that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charisma still continues, which will also be benefitting the saffron party in Uttarakhand. Significantly, PM Modi’s two ambitious projects for Garhwal have started taking off. First is an all-weather road due to which travel can continue all 12 months. Second is train connectivity close to the Badrinath dham.

Moreover, BJP’s bet on the youth leader Dhami may also be beneficial for the party in the election. Dhami worked hard and managed to control the damage done due to former CMs Trivendra Singh Rawat and Tirath Singh Rawat. Now Dhami is in the limelight. Unlike his predecessors, Dhami succeeded in placating the disgruntled leaders and gave anxious moments to the opposition.

The political scene has changed after Dhami held the top post. The BJP is again ahead of Congress in the fight which was not the case in the past. The Congress high command delayed projecting a face. In addition, it could not curb the infighting in state Congress. The BJP’s strategy to force Rawat to remain confined in the Kumaon region will also harm Congress. With Kothiyal as AAP’s chief ministerial candidate, BJP’s Garhwal gambit is going to pay off. The other problem with the Congress is that it does not have any other significant face apart from Harish Rawat. Congress’ return to power may be expected only if the aging Rawat could turn the equations in his favour by playing a sympathy card announcing that it is going to be his last election.