The Bharatiya Janata Party’s announcement of poll campaign schedule with a year still left for the assembly elections is being seen as the Opposition party’s nervous reaction to an upsurge in the Congress’ popularity under chief minister Harish Rawat.
Political analysts, however, feel the ruling party’s growing popularity is not the sole reason behind the BJP getting edgy. This edginess, according to them, has its root in the saffron party’s failure to throw up a leader of stature who could challenge Rawat – the Congress’ possible mascot for the 2017 polls.
“The shocking defeat it suffered in the Delhi and Bihar assembly polls is another reason that has left the saffron party unnerved,” said MC Joshi, a professor at Kumaon University’s Nainital campus. “Or else, it wouldn’t act out of desperation that shows in its premature poll campaign schedule which would have its cadres fritter away their energy.”
Prof YP Sundriyal of HNB Garhwal Central University said, “The BJP not having a leader who it could project as its CM candidate for the assembly polls has made it dependent on its central leaders.” In this regard, he cited the BJP’s decision to invite its national president Amit Shah to inaugurate the state executive council meeting on March 31.
The meeting will be one of a series of programmes to be organised by the BJP at the booth, village, block and district levels to “expose” the Harish Rawat government and publicise the central government’s schemes in Uttarakhand.
“These back-to-back programmes will be carried out statewide till April followed by an equally aggressive next phase of our election campaign which will go on right till the 2017 assembly polls,” state BJP spokesperson Virendra Singh Bisht told HT.
Significantly, unlike the BJP, the Congress doesn’t appear in a hurry. “For us, interaction with people is a constant process…However, it is too early to get into the poll mode as the (assembly) elections are still a year away,” said state Congress president Kishore Upadhyay.
In the battle of perception the Congress enjoys a clear edge over the BJP, for which academics give full credit to the CM. “Rawat has been making the best use of his political and administrative experience since he took over more than two years ago,” said Prof MC Sati of HNB Garhwal University. “That experience”, he argues, “shows itself both on the front of governance and in the way he has sidelined his rivals within the ruling party.”
State BJP spokesperson Bisht denied that the party’s poll campaign schedule was a nervous reaction to Rawat’s growing popularity. “This rather false perception will dramatically change once we start our aggressive poll campaign, because the announcements made by the (Rawat) government have failed to translate on the ground,” he said.
He also pooh-poohed the perception that the BJP lacked leadership to lead it in the next assembly elections. “We have a line of competent leaders including three former chief ministers… Each one of them is competent to lead the party in the polls,” Bisht said.