The ruling Congress may have to pay a heavy price in the 2017 assembly elections for its conflicting stand on Gairsain as Uttarakhand’s possible permanent capital with its top leaders speaking in different voices on the highly emotive issue, political observers warned.
They are unanimous that if the Congress persists with its conflicting stand, it may end up benefiting its rival--the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2017.
The Congress party’s contradictory stand came out in the open after senior cabinet minister Indra Hridayesh said Dehradun, a plain area that had been the state’s provisional capital since its inception in 2000, would be made the permanent capital.
Her opinion was in sharp contrast to that of chief minister Harish Rawat who had said the construction of Vidhan Sabha building at Gairsain would pave the way for the state’s permanent capital in that hill town.
The statement was made by the CM just days before the state government called the two-day winter session of the Vidhan Sabha at Gairsain on November 3. The move had raised hopes of highlanders that Congress was keen to choose Gairsain as the capital.
Congress legislators representing plain areas are also strongly opposing Gairsain as a permanent capital. They had shot down the resolution the ruling party wanted to pass in favour of Gairsain at its convention held recently.
“The Congress revived the issue of Gairsain hoping that it would pay the party’s electoral dividends in the hills in the next assembly polls,” said Prof YP Sundriyal of HNB Garhwal (central) University. He, however, felt the issue might boomerang on the ruling party owing to its insensitive handling of an emotive issue.
“If the Rawat government chooses to make Gairsain as a permanent capital it would end up alienating the voters in plain areas from the ruling party,” Sundriyal said. “The saffron party would then hugely benefit in that region because the state has 10 assembly seats more in the plain areas compared to the hills.”
Prof MC Joshi of Kumaon University’s Nainital campus said the ruling party’s conflicting stand would cost it heavily both in the hills and plains.
According to him, the CM had raised hopes among the hill people about the permanent capital only to be dashed by his own cabinet colleague.
“Such an approach will confuse the voters both in the plains and the hills,” Joshi said. “In that sense, the ruling party runs the risk of faring badly in both the regions in the next elections.”