After Uttar Pradesh, it was in Uttarakhand that the ‘Modi wave’ took everyone by surprise. The BJP, which won a landslide victory in the state, broke all records. This the party won despite no declaration of any chief ministerial candidate. Though, the saffron party didn’t repeat the same copybook of strategy it adopted in Uttar Pradesh, there was a marked difference in electioneering methods in Uttarakhand. While promise of bringing development and giving a taint-free government in the state was its usual plank, the BJP made substantial efforts in winning the youth, women and common people on the basis of its performance at the centre and past BJP-headed governments in the state.
In particular, Modi’s economic reform agenda and the recent demonetization move were seen by voters as progressive ones. Surgical strikes that the Modi-led government had carried out against Pakistan-sponsored terrorists by making soldiers go deep inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir were endorsed by the people. It should be noted that the state has a large number of retired and serving army personnel. As such playing of ‘Surgical strikes’ card helped the saffron party in good stead. Then appointment of Gen Bipin Rawat as new Chief of Army Staff and Anil Dhasmana as RAW chief in the backdrop of the fact that NSA Ajit Doval also belonged to Uttarakhand, created a positive mood among voters for the party.
In the political discourse of the hilly state, anti-Harish Rawat sentiments started surfacing since mid-last year when as many as nine Congress MLAs withdrew support from the government. Then Chief Minister Rawat’s arrogant style of functioning was cited as a major reason of revolt against the Congress government. President rule was imposed for a brief period and the state assembly was put on suspended animation. But Harish Rawat again formed a government with help from the BSP and the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKD). Lot of plus and minuses, political skullduggery were employed in the formation of this government. In a sting operation, carried out by a private television channel, Chief Minister Rawat was shown winning over MLAs in his government’s support by giving them lure of money. This exposed Rawat’s corrupt deeds. While this helped the BJP in tearing asunder the ruling establishment of the state, the saffron party gave tickets to all rebel MLAs of the Congress. This led to squabbling and rebellion within the saffron party too, but overall it led the party to strengthen its position in the areas where it was weak and vulnerable.
The BJP’s thumping victory has surprised many, even hardcore political pundits. They were predicting victory for the party, but they never expected that the state will be caught in the Modi-led ‘tsunami.’