UKD at crossroads: Is it end of the road for Uttarakhand's regional party?
Having faced an unprecedented washout in the recent Assembly polls and now staring at a political extinction, Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKD) has started drawing a road map for its resurgence. On Monday, the party leadership got down to evaluating the factors that led to its humiliating defeat in the recent Assembly polls on Monday. They have identified the reasons that led to the failure of the party to even open its account in the current state assembly.
This is for the first time that there is no MLA from the party in the state Assembly. This is the lowest ebb for the state's oldest regional force. In fact, this was the party at the forefront of the agitation for the creation of the hill state during the 1980s and 1990s with leaders like Indramani Badoni, DD Pant, Bipin Chandra Tripathi and Kashi Singh Airy.
Despite having raised the people's issues on the ground at regular intervals, the party has proved to be a disaster at the electoral platform with many of its leaders proving to be opportunists during successive state government formations that contributed a lot towards undermining the public faith in the party.
Even though it had a small number of MLAs, UKD was still the main force talking purely of regional aspirations particularly of the residents of underdeveloped hill districts.
So when its top leadership got together at Dehradun to take stock of reasons that led to the recent political debacle, they were unanimous in identifying that the main reason for the worst ever performance by the party was the crumbling organisational structure.
Party leader Pushpesh Tripathi went on to point that the second main reason for the failure was indiscipline in the ranks. He underlined that the party will have to rebuild itself and it will have to ensure that the cadres right from the worker on the ground to the top leadership must must fall in line and follow discipline.
Tripathi told Catch, “The biggest thing that we plan to do is to bring about changes in the constitution that governs the party. It has not been changed since the party came into existence in 1979. The changes will be to the effect that any new party that results from desertion of an UKD leader, is not seen as a splinter group of the parent party. In the last 16 years we have worked for the rise of leaders who have gone on to desert the party.”
Airy, who is among the senior most leaders of the party, was more candid in pointing out that it is the high time that the party gets down to overcome its shortcomings because of which the people have ignored it.
He pointed that the party will again have to go to the grassroots and utilise its traditional strength of launching people's movements on issues and build a support base that can help the party resurrect itself by the time the next polls are held. He further said that it is time the party gets down to launching a massive membership drive right from the villages in the interiors of the state.
The party leadership has decided that for proper political management the Assembly level in-charges will be appointed very soon and an exercise will be undertaken to strengthen the party base right up to the booth level. It has decided to take the party agenda once again to women, students and youth who were once its core support base. The leaders have decided to set up student wings of the party in different educational institutions across the state that will help in its enrollment drive.
“We need to regenerate confidence among the workers in our units at block and panchayat levels. They should not be allowed to feel disheartened,” said Tripathi.
The first political test for the party now will be the Panchayat polls that are to be held next year. Uttarakhand is one of those few states where 50 per cent of the seats in the Panchayats are reserved for women.
“We will be going to the villages how the women have been affected because of faulty policies. They do the agricultural work for two months. There should be policy interventions to provide them opportunities to generate income through enterprise in villages. This has not happened till now because the governments have not devised any policy for revenue generation other than by taxes on liquor and mining. They have failed to tap the natural resources in a way that sustains rural economies and help check the migration from the hills,” says Tripathi.
Another senior leader Narayan Singh Jantwal says, “We have to make a fresh beginning after having touched the bottom. People have to be galvanized and told how they are being misled even on issues like a permanent capital at Gairsain. Now there is a talk of having a summer capital at Gairsain. This will amount to nothing but tourism for officials at government expense while the real power will remain in Dehradun. The main sentiment for having a state capital in the hills has been lost,” he said.
Jantwal further pointed, “Parties like ours will have to find a way to compete with those like the national parties who have all the funds and resources. They can get the entire central Cabinet to campaign here. Ours has to be a people-centric politics with a bottom-up approach.”
Former statehood activist Shamsher Bisht is of the opinion that parties like UKD can become a major political force only when the senior leadership gives up its aspirations to hold government offices and instead gets down to managing organisational affairs. “They should be the ones laying the foundations of a strong political organization while the young leaders take the party forward,” he said in an interaction sometime ago,
UKD has its cells in major states and cities like Mumbai and Delhi where a large number of people from the hills reside. They are keen to resurrect the party. It is now for the leadership to show them how this can be done.