Karl Marx may have called religion opium of the masses, but the left parties are thriving in the most holy of constituencies in Uttarakhand. The United Regional Front, an alliance between the UKD (P) and the left parties, has given the three seats of Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath to left parties which have a strong support base in this area.
CPI (M) state secretary Vijay Rawat says the main reason behind this is that they have been part of the erstwhile Tehri princely state and Prajamandal forces (activists working for democracy) have been active here. He says communist parties have worked in the villages in the area since independence and built up pockets of influence.
CPI national council member Samar Bhandari says the area of the four dhams saw a violent struggle for the removal of monarchy, due to which it became a hotbed of communism. Comrade Govind Singh Rawat was among those who started the Chipko movement in the area of Badrinath. Govind Singh Negi of the CPI twice represented the Tehri seat, while Vidyasagar Nautiyal from the same party won from the Devprayag seat.
However, after the formation of Uttarakhand, the closest the left got to winning any assembly seat was in 2002, when Kamla Ram Nautiyal of the CPI lost by just 330 votes in Gangotri. But the party still has a considerable stake in the four dhams.