Politically uncertain hills of Uttarakhand

The inconstant CMs, defection and intra-party conflicts are the prominent issues in the state

By Ashutosh S. Patki

Chennai: As the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept Uttarakhand once again by breaking the jinx of anti-incumbency, there are several other political challenges the state is yet to overcome.

With 11 Chief Ministers in the just over two decades of its existence, the state has experienced extreme political turmoil that remained unsettled for years.

Jinxed chair of CM

The last time Pushkar Singh Dhami moved into the official residence of the Chief Minister (CM), he carried out six days of worship rituals by eight priests. Apparently, this was to remove bad luck which resulted in the toppling of individuals from the CM’s chair.

Dhami was brought by BJP as CM just months before the elections. Whether he will continue to be CM or not is still a big question as he has failed to defend his own seat. As the tradition of incumbent CM failing to defend his seat continues, the clouds of uncertainty, once again hover over the CM’s post in Uttarakhand.

Since the state was carved out of Uttar Pradesh in 2000, only one CM, Narayan Dutt Tiwari from Congress, was successful in completing a five-year term. Surprisingly, the regular deposing of the chief of state began even before the regular elections commenced in the state. Before the first legislative elections in 2022, the BJP had changed two chief ministers. Before the 2022 assembly elections, within four months BJP changed three CMs.

Even after these political upheavals, BJP remained a favoured party for the defected MLAs. Many joined the party with the hope of getting a ticket and the party did not disappoint them.  Though the party has flourished due to these moves, the state has suffered.

Too slippery to hold on

Just months before the 2022 elections, BJP welcomed two sitting MLAs from other parties. The Party’s first list of 59 candidates included prominent names defected from Congress. Sarita Arya, Durgeshwar Lal, Ram Singh Kaira, Raj Kumar Patidas, Renu Bisht were some names who defected to BJP and were fielded later. Similarly, Yashpal Arya and his MLA son Sanjiv Arya joined Congress by quitting the BJP.

Defection is a usual phenomenon in Indian politics but in Uttarakhand, it takes a different shape as the state has not only seen party stalwarts shifting but also former CMs. For instance, in 2016, Vijay Bahuguna, CM of the state from 2012 to 2014, with other eight MLAs defected to BJP from Congress. This move led to the President’s rule in the state. They were disqualified from the state assembly under the anti-defection law. Such frequent cross-overing of parties by the prominent faces makes the state politics unstable.

Internal strifes in the party

Just three weeks before the polls, three MLAs and other members accused party colleagues of plotting their defeat. BJP’s MLA from Laksar, Pradeep Gupta was the first one to level such allegations. This internal chaos did cost BJP a loss of ten seats in the 2022 elections as compared to the 2017 elections. In a similar incident, in December 2021, former CM and Congress’ campaign committee chief Harish Rawat said that there has been an ‘internal sabotage’. He was defeated by a considerable margin in the recent election.

All these political hurdles make Uttarakhand state politics uncertain. The political picture has often remained surprising here. When most of the political experts were expecting a neck and neck fight in the 2022 assembly elections, BJP emerged as the single largest party for the second consecutive term. . With a majority in hand and also the government in the Union, several objectives could be easily achieved. But will it succeed in settling the troubled mountains of Uttarakhand by discarding jinxed politics in the state?