‘Bolo Dil Se, Harda Phir Se’ (Say it from heart, it’s Harda again) is one slogan Congress social media team is spreading across Uttarakhand that goes to polls on February 15.
Chief minister Harish Rawat aka ‘Harda’ has become the local poster boy of the party.
BJP, on the other hand, is banking upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s image and has kept state leaders on the back seat. Their campaign is centered around demolishing Rawat’s image.
The election has been confined between two personalities – Harish Rawat and Narendra Modi. According to strategists, since Modi is not visible in the state, it gives Congress an advantage. Rawat’s day starts with meeting people, hitting roads, touching constituencies. He is contesting from two seats – Kichha and Haridwar rural. On Friday, he filed nominations papers from Haridwar rural seat.
“Will Modiji spend time with locals? It is only Harda who remains available to people,” said MD Joshi, Congress spokesperson. Rawat could emerge undisputed leader if he wins, or else he would be lost in oblivion if his party loses.
Rawat was assigned a task to reconstruct Kedarnath shrine town and improve party’s image, which his government handled very professionally. Rawat also managed to grab three seats from BJP in the by-polls that were held little after NDA was voted to power following Modi’s surge in 2014. This helped Congress gain its confidence in Uttarakhand and elsewhere.
Winning by-polls ensured a free hand to Rawat. His self-centric style of functioning by ignoring other leaders ignited heartburns. Several of them rushed to New Delhi, but party leadership stood behind him. As Rawat further cemented his position, his opponents felt ignored and revolted. In less than a year, 11 Congress legislators left party to join BJP.
The mass exodus has a two-way effect. There are no major Rawat opponents left in the party and this gives him an edge. But the exit of top leaders has also weakened the position of Congress particularly in several pockets of Garhwal region.
But it is still in the game owing to strategic ticket distribution. Rawat has been given lion share in tickets distribution and he has taken care of caste and regional factors.
He is contesting polls from two seats – one each in Haridwar and US Nagar district, which has block of 20 seats.