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After the rout comes the vacuum: Congress is leaderless in Uttarakhand

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 15 March 2017, 15:36 IST
(Arya Sharma/Catch News)

The Congress is staring a leadership crisis in Uttarakhand after suffering a rout in the recent Assembly elections. Several of its top guns had already crossed over to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) before the polls. The rest were lost the electoral battle.

Thus, a vacuum has emerged, as there is hardly any leader with a pan-Uttarakhand image in the new Assembly and in the organisation.

Chaos reigns supreme

Over the last two days, chaos has been reigning at the Congress Bhavan in Dehradun as the knives are out between various factions.

Many are calling for a total revamp of the organisational structure, while others want to understand the recent loss and divide responsibility for it. This is especially important, they say, considering state unit chief Kishore Upadhyay and Chief Minister Harish Rawat fared poorly on their own seats.

The cadre is demanding that amends be made at a time when such a crisis has hit, keeping in mind how so many leaders fled the party over the past one year.

Dozens of leaders swapped sides and joined the BJP over the past year

Those in the party point out that even when the state was created in 2000 - the Congress was in a shambles in Uttar Pradesh as well as in the Centre, but the party in Uttarakhand had top rung leaders like ND Tewari, Harish Rawat and Indira Hridayesh, all of whom managed to keep the organisation in good form.

But this election has left the organisation hollow. 

“The adhocism that has been allowed to continue needs to be done away at the earliest. The responsibility has to be fixed for the loss at the central as well as the state levels. Things have to change at the grassroots level. The present scenario of more leaders than workers at the ground level will not work any longer. The organisation has to be strengthened and youth has to be brought to the forefront,” said Suryakant Dhasmana, who was the Congress candidate from Dehradun Cantonment seat.

Where the ranks stand at present

Of the Congress leaders who managed to win their seats despite the Modi wave in Uttarakhand, the prominent names are Pritam Singh, Govind Singh Kunjwal and Indira Hridayesh and Karan Mahara.

But none have a pan-Uttarakhand appeal.

Although Pritam has emerged as a tall leader, he is seen more as the Congress face in Jaunsar. Kunjwal is seen as an old hand, and Mahara is known more as a relative of Harish Rawat and is confined to his Ranikhet seat.

And though Indira Hridayesh has the most experience in conducting legislative business, even her influence is largely restricted to Haldwani and a few adjoining areas.

One promising face that has emerged from the ranks over the last decade is that of Qazi Nizamuddin

The all-important Garhwal region is where the Congress felt the frostbite the most after leaders like Satpal Maharaj, Vijay Bahuguna and Harak Singh Rawat joined the ranks of the BJP. 

In Kumaon, the party fared better with Harish Rawat as the face of the party and Rajya Sabha MP Pradeep Tamta representing the backward castes. 

Observers point out that one bright and promising face that has emerged from the Congress ranks over the last decade is that of Qazi Nizamuddin - who has won two polls in a row from Manglore constituency. He is being seen as a youthful leader who can deliver.

Looking ahead

“If the Congress wants to resurrect itself for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, it needs to totally changeover its existing set up in the state and the focus should be on the Garhwal region,” says senior political analyst Jay Singh Rawat who has been keeping a watch on the political developments in Uttarakhand for the last three decades. 

“For now, Harish Rawat remains the face of the party in the state as there is no other option available. The beginning should be made with a change in the state president Kishore Upadhyay and also the party in-charge for the state Ambika Soni deputed by the central leadership. The party in-charge should be someone who understands the state and its requirements. He or she should be spending more time in the state instead of hopping on and off,” he says.

First published: 15 March 2017, 15:36 IST