Why Gairsain capital issue a political hot potato in election-bound Uttarakhand
The hopes of hundreds of thousands of hill people in Uttrarakhand are dashed as the Harish Rawat government is reluctant to declare Gairsain – a nondescript town in Chamoli district – as the permanent capital of the state.
Gairsain has always remained an emotive issue for the people of Uttarakhand, especially those living in the hilly region of the state.
A large section of hill people have been demanding that Gairsain be made the permanent capital of the state, an issue that remains unresolved ever since Uttarakhand was carved out of the Uttar Pradesh in 2000.
Ever since the formation of Uttarakhand, confusion prevailed over a permanent capital for the state.
In the past, chief minister Rawat said that he might declare Gairsain as the summer capital but now he seems to have changed his mind ahead of the 2017 assembly polls.
During the two-day assembly session that concluded at Gairsain on Friday, Rawat made it clear that his priority was to create infrastructure in the hill town.
Rawat’s reluctance to declare Gairsain as the permanent capital stems from obvious political compulsions. Out of the 13 districts in the state, more than half of the assembly seats are located in the four plains districts of Dehradun, Haridwar, US Nagar and Nainital.
The plains districts play a pivotal role in deciding which direction the state politics will move. The high population density in the plains districts seems to be one of the reasons why the Rawat government has back-tracked from its earlier plan.
“I know Narsan (Haridwar) and Gairsain (Chamoli) well and both the regions know me very well,” Rawat recently told HT when asked whether he plan to declare Gairsain as the summer or permanent capital of the state.
There 70 assembly seats in the state and Chamoli, where Gairsain is located, has only two assembly seats while Dehradun has 10 seats and Haridwar 11.
This shows the dominance of the plains areas in state politics. Rawat represented the Haridwar parliamentary in the 13th Lok Sabha and is well aware of the fallout of appeasing the hill people at the cost of his voters in the plains, where the BJP and the BSP have strong bases.
Declaring Gairsain as the capital will neither suit the Congress nor the BJP, says SS Pangati, a former Indian Administrative Services officer.
“The caretaker BJP government in 2001, constituted the Dixit Commission to suggest names of cities that could be declared as the capital,” he says.
“The commission suggested a few names, including Dehradun and Gairsain and the report tabled in the assembly by the then BJP government. The then BC Khanduri government did not act on the report.”