A total of 628 candidates are contesting the Uttarakhand Assembly elections, where polling in 69 of its 70 seats will be held on Wednesday. Polling in the Karnaprayag constituency has been postponed because of the death of the BSP candidate in a road accident.
The BJP, which won all five Lok Sabha seats in the State in the 2014 elections, is again banking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a victory in the Assembly elections. But the Congress, under Chief Minister Harish Rawat, is giving it a tough fight.
Several leaders in the BJP have made a claim for the Chief Minister’s post. On the contrary, in the Congress, the campaign has been a one-man show centred on Mr. Rawat, the party’s chief ministerial candidate.
The Congress, which lost many of its strong leaders from the Garhwal region to the BJP during the brief spell of President’s Rule, is weak in the Garhwal Hills. However, it has an upper hand in the Kumaon Hills. With no third force against the Congress and the BJP in about 50 seats, the Independents hold the key in 12 to 15 seats.
In the agrarian areas of Haridwar and Udham Singh Nagar districts, the contest is a triangular one as the Bahujan Samaj Party is an important player in 20 seats of the two districts.
Throughout the campaign, Mr. Modi, who gave five election speeches in the State, targeted Mr. Rawat for alleged corruption. The Prime Minister promised the voters more employment opportunities, improved roads, enhanced tourism potential, and setting up of small-scale industries in the plain areas of the State. He referred to the surgical strikes and implementation of the one rank, one pension scheme in all his speeches to attack the Congress and woo the voters since a major part of Uttarakhand’s workforce is employed with the armed forces. Also, the State has over two lakh ex-servicemen.
While the campaigning saw the BJP in the offensive mode, the Congress was mostly playing victim. The target of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Mr. Rawat was Mr. Modi and the “rebels” who had ditched the party and crossed over to the BJP.
The BJP’s did door-to-door campaigning, especially in the hill villages. The Congress, however, had a strong social media campaign which was being handled by the team of the party’s poll strategist, Prashant Kishor.
Uttarakhand’s biggest disaster — the 2013 flashfloods — struck when Vijay Bahuguna was the Chief Minister. After his failure to handle the disaster, Mr. Bahuguna was replaced by Mr. Rawat.
On March 18 last year, Mr. Bahuguna, along with eight other MLAs, who were upset with Mr. Rawat’s leadership, rebelled against the party. The political turmoil resulted in the imposition of President’s Rule and a new chapter began in Uttarakhand politics.
At the end of it Mr. Rawat returned to power, more powerful than before and with immense public sympathy for him, but the Congress lost its topmost leaders. This year, most of them are contesting as BJP candidates.
In 2012, it was a close contest between the BJP, which won 31 seats, and the Congress, which won 32. However, three BSP MLAs, three Independents and one Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKD) MLA had supported the Congress to form a government.