Uttarakhand Raksha Morcha (URM), a regional political party formed by retired army officers just four months ago, is gaining mass acceptance in Uttarakhand and is likely to make a dent in the vote banks of the Congress and the BJP.
Approximately 40% of the state's population comprises soldiers, former army men, their families and service voters. And traditionally, as backed by the 2007 assembly polls voting trend, majority of them have voted for the BJP.
Former BJP MP Lt Gen (retd) TPS Rawat who founded the party is confident the trend will change this time. "Many ex-soldiers have their roots in Garhwal Rifles or Kumaon Regiment. There are large numbers of ex-paramilitary personnel in state," said Rawat. "Since URM is the party of soldiers with a clear vision of development of the state, we are banking on their support."
The party is contesting in 45 seats of the 70 assembly constituencies. Ten retired soldiers and several dissidents from the BJP and the Congress figure in the candidate list.
"We are mainly trying to create a base among soldiers. But we will slowly tap into every section of the society," said party spokesperson PC Thapliyal.
The BJP is confident that the URM will not be able to hurt it in the upcoming elections.
"The BJP has Maj Gen (retd) Khanduri as the chief minister. URM is not in a position to hurt us," said Col (retd) CP Nautiyal, head of BJP ex-soldiers' cell.
The Congress, however, fears it might lose votes in some constituencies.
"Many retired soldiers had voted for us too, but the party has not given a single seat to them. So it is unlikely that they will vote for us," said captain (retd) Balbir Rawat, president of the Congress's ex-soldiers' cell.