After naming retired Colonel Ajay Kothiyal as their chief ministerial candidate, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has fast-tracked and gained considerable attention for the 2022 Uttarakhand Legislative Assembly election. Col. Kothiyal (retd.), an Indian Army veteran, shot to fame in the aftermath of the 2013 Uttarakhand floods. He rose to prominence when he took up the challenge of reconstructing the Kedarnath shrine area, known as Kedarpuri, even as state government agencies showed their unwillingness to work at the high terrain of over 11,000-feet. Banking on this fame, on August 17, AAP’s national convener Arvind Kejriwal said, “This decision was taken by the people of Uttarakhand, not us.”
“People here want a break from politicians who have only looted the state. They now want an Army man as CM who will not spend his tenure filling his coffers but serve them,” Kejriwal said, addressing a public rally. As a means of seemingly attracting Hindu votes, Kejriwal also announced that his party will strive to establish Uttarakhand as the “global spiritual capital” for the Hindu community, if elected. The AAP, in Uttarakhand, is striving to become a potential player in the state. By doing so, the party plans to fill the gap left by other parties such as the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), and establish itself as a credible third party after the ruling BJP and Congress.
On the other hand, the Congress organised a brainstorming camp in Rishikesh, for three days from August 3, to chalk out its future strategy for the Uttarakhand assembly election. With Harish Rawat as the party’s Campaign Committee chief for Uttarakhand, the members had campaign related discussions in the presence of all the senior leaders.
The former Uttarakhand chief minister, Harish Rawat is no less than a survivor when it comes to politics. He brought about a generational change under his leadership, which won him the assembly election in the state after he lost in 2017. Despite his campaign victories, he ended up as the distant second in the 57-member house of 70, after losing both of the seats he contested for.
Currently, Rawat is trying to make the most of the unrest within the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ranks, over the appointment of 45-year-old greenhorn Pushkar Singh Dhami as chief minister. As he noticed that the BJP ranks were uneasy early on, he gradually increased his state tours. According to the Deccan Herald, this has helped re-establish Rawat’s position as the only party leader with mass appeal in the “faction-ridden Congress”. Affirming that several BJP officials had sent him feelers, Rawat stated that the Congress was open to anyone who wishes to join it after careful consideration.
As for the BJP, it is already in the poll mode. The party has launched many initiatives such as “Booth Jeeta to Chunav Jeeta“, meaning winning the booth will win the election. A series of training workshops have also been held for the party cadre, which will continue through the end of February. To date, several training workshops have been held to make sure thousands of booth workers are aware of the development work the state and federal BJP governments have been doing. However, considering the growing unemployment and inflation, as well as the factors pertaining to the pandemic, it will be difficult for the party to pass this time around.
The change in leadership could also pose a challenge for the party in regaining its support in the state. Speaking to the Financial Express, BHEL Ranipur’s MLA Adesh Chauhan said that it would have been better if the party had brought in Pushkar Singh Dhami as the chief minister at the very beginning, instead of Tirath Singh Rawat.
To make amendments, the state party president, Bansidhar Bhagat and Rajya Sabha member Naresh Bansal have formed a five-member committee for preparing a roadmap for the 2022 election, notes Hindustan Times. The committee is expected to make recommendations on the issues to be addressed during the upcoming election and on mass outreach on pressing issues.
The committee is expected to ponder about the promises it had made in the last election. From free education up to graduation for the needy, along with smartphones and laptops for academically outstanding students, and facilities such as air ambulances and telemedicine to augment the healthcare facilities, are some of the promises made by the BJP that are still unfulfilled as the five year term draws to a close. The party’s poll campaign will be launched by Ajay Bhatt, who has recently been appointed as the Minister of State for Tourism and Defence. The party has also intensified its campaigns with the Jan-Ashirwad Yatra in progress.
Meanwhile, the Opposition is banking heavily on the BJP’s unresolved issues, particularly the state government’s alleged mismanagement of the COVID crisis and the state’s high unemployment rate. It has also chastised the ruling party for holding electoral events such as the Jan-Ashirwad Yatra instead of preparing for the possibility of a third COVID-19 wave, and ensuring mass vaccination.
The Congress, if elected, will reportedly abolish the Uttarakhand Zamindari Abolition And Land Reforms (Amendment) Act, 2016. Senior Congress officials claim that loosening the land-purchase policy has harmed the people of Uttarakhand and their farms. They have promised to introduce a new law similar to the Himachal Pradesh Tenancy and Land Reforms Act, 1972, which places limitations on non-agriculturalists owning land. Harish Rawat told the Print that Uttarakhand needs a separate land law like Himachal Pradesh, to prevent non-domiciles from purchasing land in the state.
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In a statement, Congress general secretary Rajendra Shah said, “[the party] will incorporate the issue into its election manifesto with a promise to formulate a new land law in the interest of the local public and save the state’s agricultural land.” Following this, the BJP’s state spokesperson, Manbir Singh Chauhan declared that Chief Minister Dhami “has already expressed his willingness to correct the snag for the benefit of the people of Uttarakhand”, and that efforts are underway to do so. In light of the robust power generation network developed and the plentiful water resources in the Himalayan state, Harish Rawat said that he promises free energy and drinking water. If the Congress wins the state election in 2022, Rawat will apparently provide 100 to 200 units of free electricity, as reported by the Hindustan Times.
Lastly, another report by the Hindustan Times notes that the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal issued four assurances, including 300 units of power free for every family in the state. He also promised that all previous electrical bills would be waived. In addition, Kejriwal guaranteed that there would be no power outages in Uttarakhand, and that power would be provided 24 hours a day. He emphasised that offering free power does not imply offering less of it. He assured that all farmers in Uttarakhand will receive free power.
Kejriwal further stated that aside from providing 24×7 electricity supply, the following three pledges will be met as soon as the AAP takes power in Uttarakhand. According to him, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) will fight and win the election on the promise of improved education, healthcare, and employment.