With BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya in Doon, BJP, Cong gearing up for election results
Dehradun, March 7
Following speculation of a neck and neck fight between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and opposition Congress in the hill state of Uttarakhand, both the parties are giving final touches to their strategies in case there is a hung assembly in the state. The counting of votes will be done on March 10 along with four other states.
Already, senior BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya who is considered a master strategist in “winning” over opposition legislators to BJP fold has reached Dehradun and held consultations with senior party leaders including Chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, former Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank and state party unit chief Madan Kaushik.
The arrival of Kailash Vijayvargiya has raised the hackles of Uttarakhand Congress unit with state party president Ganesh Godiyal terming him as a ‘predator’. Interestingly, it was Kailash Vijayvargiya who was instrumental in helping defect ten Congress legislators including former Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna to BJP fold resulting in the fall of the then Harish Rawat government. He was also the BJP point man in West Bengal to lure away Trinamool Congress legislators, MPs and leaders to BJP before the state assembly elections.
On the other hand, senior Congress leaders are also holding discussions on the emerging situation. Former chief minister and Congress campaign committee chief Harish Rawat is in New Delhi to meet senior party functionaries while party general secretary incharge Devendra Yadav and his three co-incharges are also expected to reach Dehradun on March 8.
Although, both the parties are claiming winning the state assembly polls by ‘big margins’, but are preparing to save their legislators from poaching in case of a hung house. The Congress which claim to be heading towards to a decisive victory is apprehensive and confused in case it fail to get an absolute majority. Harish Rawat has said that Congress party would not allow a repeat on 2016 episode when its’ legislators walked over to BJP.
Except for 2017 state assembly elections in which riding on PM Modi wave, BJP scored a record breaking victory of winning 57 seats out of total 70 seats, there had been close fight between the Congress and BJP in the state since the inception of the state in 2000. In state assembly polls in 2017, BJP got 46.5 per cent of popular votes while Congress could only get 33.5 per cent votes. The Congress could win only 11 seats.
Interestingly, during the earlier state assembly elections held in 2002, 2007 and 2012, both these national parties were neck and neck in the poll percentage. In the first ever state assembly elections held after the formation of Uttarakhand state in February 2002, Congress got 26.91 per cent votes against 25.45 per cent of BJP which was running the interim government in the state. The Congress got 36 seats while the BJP could only win 19 seats.
In the 2007 state assembly polls, the BJP got 31.90 per cent of votes bagging 35 seats, one short of majority and Congress getting 21 seats. The BJP formed the government with the help of three legislators of Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKD) making its’ leader Diwakar Bhatt, a cabinet minister in the Chief Minister B.C.Khanduri cabinet.
In the 2012 state assembly elections, Congress got 33.19 per cent votes winning 32 seats while BJP bagged 33.13 per cent votes in a close contest winning 31 seats. The Congress by virtue of being the single largest party formed the government under Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna with the help of three independents, three BSP legislators and one belonging to UKD (P).
The Congress leaders are worried that in case the party falls short of majority but emerges as the single largest party, the BJP would try to woo away its’ legislators and could form the government with the help of independents, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and UKD. The performance of BSP which had a vote share hovering between 10 to 12 per cent in the previous elections could be crucial in the government formation.
According to political analysts, BSP is in competitive position on three seats namely Laksar, Mangalore and Bhagwanpur assembly segments of Haridwar districts, while UKD is in fight at Dwarahat in Kumoan and Devprayag in Garhwal. Some of the independents including one Congress rebel from Yamunotri assembly segment of Uttarkashi district ares also believed to be in good position. BSP supremo Mayawati is also having friendly terms with the BJP nowadays. In case of hung assembly, the role of state Governor is also going to be crucial.
The Congress due to variety of reasons could not put up a robust campaign highlighting the various omissions and commissions of the ruling BJP government which changed three Chief Ministers while BJP with the help of a virulent communal campaign were able to make a dent in the last five days of the campaign. The BJP went to the majority Hindu voters, terming Congress as a pro-Muslim party and even showing Harish Rawat as another Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, founder of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) by superimposing his photograph with a flowing beard. He was also targeted on giving leave to Muslim employees for offering Friday prayers during the fasting month of ‘Ramzan’. With Election Commission allowing rallies in the last five days of campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed two rallies which would help the BJP. Without mentioning the word ‘Muslim’, the Prime Minister also targeted the Congress party on being pro-Muslim. He asked the people of beware of the Congress “designs”. The Congress leaders except for complaining to the Election Commission were on the defensive for fear of being annoying the majority community. They were unable to effectively counter the false claims of the BJP which went hammer and tongs with their campaign.