Uttarakhand 2022 Polls: Will BJP be Able To Retain State Despite Infighting?

Note: The original version of the article was published on August 4th 2021 in “The Daily Guardian”

Photograph by Wikimedia Commons

The Uttarakhand Assembly elections are scheduled to take place in February 2022, to elect 70 members to the state’s Assembly. Over the last few months, the internal politics of the state took national stage leading to the resignation of two Chief Ministers in one year. In March this year, Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat resigned after large-scale dissatisfaction against his government, after which Tirath Singh Rawat was sworn in as the new Chief Minister of the state. However, the troubles of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), did not stop there. Shortly after, in July 2021, Tirath Singh Rawat also tendered his resignation. Pushkar Singh Dhami then took up his post, as the youngest Chief Minister of the state.

The BJP, which swept the elections in 2017, winning 57 out of the 70 seats with a vote share of 47%, faces an uphill task in the state against the Indian National Congress (INC), which won 11 seats in the last assembly elections with a vote share of 33.8%. The upcoming election is set to witness a three-cornered fight this time, with Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) also gearing up to try to win Uttarakhand. Historically, the state has had very strong anti-incumbency as it has turned up alternative governments every five years since the first election was held in 2002. While analysts and political pundits predict a similar trend in 2022, it is yet to be seen whether the BJP’s internal troubles will lead to losing the state or retaining power.

What will happen in 2022?

It is no surprise that the INC and AAP have both been using the instability within the BJP and the change in leadership a year before Assembly Elections as a weapon for the upcoming elections. In March this year, the ABP-CVoter opinion poll predicted a win for the Congress in the state. As per the poll, the BJP’s vote share in the state is expected to see a decline of 8.2% while, the Congress may gain 2.3% in their vote share. The AAP may make some inroads in the state. As per the poll, the Congress is likely to win 35 seats, the BJP 27 seats, and the BSP and AAP are likely to win three and five seats, respectively.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)

The BJP’s massive win is often attributed to a very strong Modi-wave, as the party did not have a Chief Ministerial face during the elections. Apart from internal turmoil and instability, the party also faces the grave challenges of strong anti-incumbency due to lack of employment opportunities, lack of healthcare, and poor handling of the second wave of COVID-19. The BJP is facing allegations of corruption and controversy surrounding the Char Dham Devasthanam Management Bill. The declaration of Garsain as the summer capital of Uttarakhand and the decision to add new districts to this new administrative unit from both the Garhwal and Kumaon areas have been labelled controversial decisions. Furthermore, there are reports of internal dissatisfaction with the elevation of Pushkar Singh Dhami due to his relative inexperience and being chosen over other leaders. Keeping these points in mind, it is clear that the BJP will have a tough time retaining power in the state.

Photograph from uttarainformation.gov.in

Indian National Congress (INC)

The INC, which was only able to win 11 seats during the last Assembly Elections, was able to retain its vote share of 33.8%. The party is banking on the widespread anti-incumbency in the state and the strong grassroots connection of party leader Harish Rawat to bolster a victory in the 2022 polls. However, winning might not be so simple for the INC as well. The new appointments of party national general secretary Harish Rawat as president of the 2022 election committee along with Rajya Sabha member Pradeep Tamta as vice president and former minister Dinesh Agrawal as the convenor have brought across rumours of discontent within the party. Additionally, the untimely death of party veteran Indira Hridyesh, the leader of opposition in the state assembly, could hurt the Congress electorally.

Photograph from uttarainformation.gov.in

Others : Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)

The Aam Aadmi Party announced that it will be contesting all 70 seats in Uttarakhand. The party has said it will bring the “Delhi model” to the state, along with the promise of quality education, healthcare, 300 units of free electricity, waiving off old electricity bills, free electricity for farmers, and 24×7 electricity. The party has projected Colonel (retd) Ajay Kothiyal, who has been hailed for his rescue and rehabilitation efforts in the aftermath of the 2013 Kedarnath tragedy, as its Chief Ministerial face. The AAP launched a membership drive in February 2021 to get ready for 2022 polls in the state. The BSP which had managed to secure three seats with a vote share of around 12.2% did not manage to win even a single assembly seat during the 2017 elections. However, it was able to secure a vote share of 7%. Earlier this year, BSP chief Mayawati announced that the party will contest all assembly seats in Uttarakhand on its own and would not forge a poll alliance with any party.

Kumbh 2021 Haridwar | Photograph by uttarakhandtourism.gov.in

Shreya Maskara/New Delhi

Contributing reports by Damini Mehta, Junior Research Associate at Polstrat and Abhinay Chandana, Damayanti Niyogi, Niyanta Desai, Interns at Polstrat.

From Polstrat, a non-partisan political consultancy which aims to shift the narrative of political discourse in the country from a problem-centric to a solutions-oriented approach.

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Polstrat is a political consultancy aiming to shift the narrative of political discourse in the country from a problem-centric to a solutions-oriented approach.

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Polstrat

Polstrat is a political consultancy aiming to shift the narrative of political discourse in the country from a problem-centric to a solutions-oriented approach.