It’s Harish Rawat versus the ‘rest’ in Uttarakhand क्या हरदा लगा पाएंगे कांग्रेस की नय्या पार?

It’s Harish Rawat versus the ‘rest’ in Uttarakhand क्या हरदा लगा पाएंगे कांग्रेस की नय्या पार?

As electioneering in Uttarakhand picks up, incumbent Chief Minister Harish Rawat is single-handedly leading Congress’ campaign. What challenges he faces from the BJP and his ex Cabinet colleagues like Yashpal Arya and Harak Singh Rawat, and what message he is trying to gie by contesting from two sets, Sandeep Joshi finds out…


istory is being made in Uttarakhand Assembly elections this time with incumbent Chief Minister, Congress’ Harish Rawat, entering the fray from two constituencies – Haridwar Rural and Kiccha in Udham Singh Nagar district – both in the Terai region. However, what has surprised many is Mr. Rawat’s decision to stay away from any of the seats in the hills. Incidentally, after becoming Chief Minister, Mr. Rawat chose Dharchula in Pithoragarh district, situated on Indo-China border, for the by-election.

Congressmen argue that Mr. Rawat decided to contest from the two seats in order to boost his party’s protests in two districts – Udham Singh Nagar where BJP has a strong support base, and Haridwar where there is a triangular fight between Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party and Bahujan Samaj Party. But people say Mr. Rawat not to contest from a seat in the Hills, either from Kumaon or Garhwal region, is not going down well in the state where majority population hails from the hilly areas.

Elections in Uttarakhand are interestingly poised as it is going to be a contest between Harish Rawat versus rest of the “important” leaders of the state with all now in the BJP ranks – from three Chief Ministers and now BJP MPs – B.C. Khanduri, Ramesh Pokhariyal Nishank, B.S. Koshyari to former Congress Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna. Even the patriarch of Uttarakhand politics, former UP and Uttarakhand Chief Minister N.D. Tiwari, is now a BJP “sympathizer”. BJP also has support of former Cabinet Ministers in the Harish Rawat government – Yashpal Arya, Harak Singh Rawat and Amrita Rawat.

In such a scenario, Harish Rawat seems to be facing a tough challenge as almost all the stalwarts of Uttarakhand politics representing three prominent regions of the state – Garhwal, Kumaon and Terai region – have ganged up against him. What is likely to make going tough for Harish Rawat is the fact that he is still considered a “Kumaoni” Chief Minister and not a “leader” of all Uttarakhandis. Moreover, all the nine Congress MLAs who revolted against him early last year hail from Garhwal region. So there is a strong undercurrent among people of Garhwal who feel that Mr. Rawat neglected his own MLAs and also the Garhwal region. All these factors are going trouble the incumbent Chief Minister.

Another important aspect of this election is Mr. Rawat’s heavy dependence on the Haridwar region to help improve Congress’ electoral fortunes. Mr. Rawat had represented Almora Lok Sabha seat prior to emergence of the Ram temple movement in the early nineties that catapulted BJP’s fortune in the hill state. After losing successive elections post 1991, Mr. Rawat shifted to Haridwar, where Muslims electorate are in good numbers, and won in 2009. But he failed to retain the seat for his wife Renuka Rawat in 2014 elections who contested on a Congress ticket.

Since taking over the responsibility of Chief Minister, Mr. Rawat has been nursing Haridwar region well. It is from this region that his wife, son and daughter were aspirants for MLA tickets. But under ‘one family, one ticket’ formula, he failed to secure tickets for his family members. Though it is another fact that Hardwar Rural constituency, which is one of the seats from where he is in the fray, was being nursed by his daughter Anupama. It is widely believed in the Congress that if Mr. Rawat wins both the seats, he will vacate Hardwar Rural seat for his daughter.

Harish rawat election 2017

Harish Rawat filing nomination papers from Kichha in Udham Singh Nagar district

Haridwar region comprise over a dozen seats, and Congress’ good performance in this area could change fortunes of the party, though it will not be easy as BSP has been a good performer in the region and has been successful in bagging between three and eight seats since Uttarakhand came into being. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP swept entire Uttarakhand except for the Haridwar Lok Sabha seat where the Congress was able to secure five out of 14 assembly segments. However, in a triangular contest in Assembly polls, no political pundit will hazard a guess on who is going to come out victorious.

Talking about Mr. Rawat’s “adventurism” to contest from two seats and also being the sole leader of the Congress to lead the entire election campaign in the state, political pundits remember Congress veteran N.D. Tiwari whose one fatal mistake in 1991 to contest from two seats – Nainital Lok Sabha and Haldwani Assembly constituency – in undivided Uttar Pradesh resulted in him losing out in the race for the Prime Minister’s post.

In 1991 elections, polls were held simultaneously for Lok Sabha and UP Vidhan Sabha. Mr. Tiwari representing Congress contested from Nainital Lok Sabha and Haldwani Assembly seat. In the era of Ram Mandir movement, people of Nainital district voted for the BJP in Lok Sabha while Haldwani voters sent Mr. Tiwari to Lucknow. The Congress went on to form the government in Delhi, while the BJP got the mandate in UP. Had Mr. Tiwari won Lok Sabha in 1991, he could have been Congress’ choice for the Prime Ministership ahead of P.V. Narasimha Rao. People fear that a similar confusion could arise in the minds of Kichha and Haridwar Rural voters, both held by the BJP, from where Mr. Rawat is in the fray.

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