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Amidst reports that the Centre is considering dismissal of his government, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh has convened an emergency meeting on Feb 21st. Uttar Pradesh Governor TV Rajeswar in his report to the Centre is understood to have expressed apprehensions of horse-trading in case of a trial of strength in the state assembly. Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh Saturday claimed that his party had the required majority in Uttar Pradesh despite the disqualification of 13 Bahujan Samaj Party MLAs. The remaining 24 MLAs who defected from BSP and helped Mulayam Singh Yadav become chief minister in 2003 remain a bone of contention. Meanwhile there is consensus within the UPA on imposing President’s rule. While the Congress is leaning towards it, its key outside ally the CPI-M in support of Mulayam called for the matter to be decided in the assembly. The BJP watching the drama unfold in Lucknow is sitting pretty on the sidelines.
There was only so much Einstein and Relativity could do protect Mulayam as pointed out by Offstumped http://offstumped.nationalinterest.in/2007/01/17/and-the-political-games-begin-in-uttar-pradesh/
The BJP has good reason to be smiling. With the STAR TV AC Nielsen Opinion Poll predicting a thin majority for the BJP in neighbouring Uttarakhand the drama being played out in Uttar Pradesh works to the BJP’s favor. As Uttarakhand goes to polls Offstumped looks at the contrasting politics of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh when not so long ago they were one state.
Promising a series of sops for Uttarakhand, including aid for the Kumbh Mela and setting up of industrial parks, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday made an emotional appeal to people to return the ruling Congress to power in the state. Interestingly enough though both Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi have gone completely silent on projecting a chief ministerial candidate. A rather unusual step for a party that thrives on personalities and sustains itself around individuals. While the BJP is known to go into polls without projecting any specific individuals and leaving the chief ministerial selection to post poll backroom consensus, the Congress is charting unknown waters here. The reason is the long forgotten grand old man of cow belt politics N.D. Tiwari, the man who could have been Prime Minister after Rajiv Gandhi’s death if only he understood how the politics in the plains had changed post mandal. Octogenerian N.D. Tiwari has made it clear he is no upto electoral politics anymore and wants out and there in lies the Congress Dilemma.
In sharp contrast to the Octogenerian N.D. Tiwari, is the presumptive BJP front runner for the Chief Ministerial seat in Uttarakhand B.C. Khanduri, a retired army major. Khanduri distinguished himself during the Vajpayee NDA reign as the Surface Transport Minister responsible for getting the National Highway Projects off the ground. The Telegraph on Jan 22nd http://www.telegraphindia.com/1070122/asp/nation/story_7293740.aspÂ had a very interesting piece on B.C. Khanduri and how the successful the BJP was on attracting professional talent like him.
Personalities apart what really makes Uttarakhand distinct from Uttar Pradesh is its politics. A look at the last couple of elections says it all. The battle royale is essentially between the Congress and the BJP with the mandalite Samajwadi Party, SP and the Dalit Bahujan Samaj Party, BSP on the sidelines playing a marginal role. In the 2002 state assembly elections both the BJP and the Congress had a quarter of the vote share with the BSP distant 3rd at 11% and the SP a marginal 6%. If you look at the election campaign so far in Uttarakhand a lot of talk from the congress on development, employment but hardly any talk of social justice or equity of minorities. Employment seems to be the major issue with more than 4.5 lakh unemployed youth.
While this contrast with UP maybe attributed to the pre-dominantly upper caste demographic of the region it also goes to highlight how artificial a state Uttar Pradesh was begin to with. Uttar Pradesh continues to be too large a state for the good of its own people. Case in point would be the recent sequence of events in Nithari village near NOIDA, which despite its proximity to New Delhi is administratively linked to Lucknow highlighting the apathy with a centralized bureaucracy would respond to a local law and order problem. The other key takeway from the contrasting politics of Uttarakhand is that similar to Punjab it is in small states like Uttarakhand where social justice politics are non-existent that the Right of Center agenda has its best chance of cementing itself.
Offstumped Bottomline: To date the politics in Uttarakhand had revolved around the unmet aspirations of the hill people which was addressed by its creation as a separate state. Now it is time for Uttarakhand to move beyond the regional identity politics and expect its politicians to set an agenda that advances opportunities and promotes Uttarakhand as a favored destination for tourism and investments. The BJP made its mark in the state with its brand of religious right of center politics, it is time the professional in B.C. Khanduri expanded it to a true right of center agenda on issues like Governance, Investment climate and economic opportunities to meet the aspirations of the 4.5 Lakh unemployed youth.