DEHRADUN: As the BJP and the Congress brace up for a face-off in the 2022 assembly polls in Uttarakhand, the locals feel that the debut of AAP will make little dent in their vote share.
This is despite AAP announcing sops for the hill people.
Among other burning issues emerging from the state, the migration of 5.2 lakh people between 2008 to 2018 from villages located in the hills of Uttarakhand in search of better facilities is now being seen as a threat to national security, as a lot of these villages lie in the areas bordering China. The locals moving out means a drop in alerts, as the locals make for India’s eyes and ears.
Anoop Nautiyal, a prominent social worker based in Dehradun spoke to The New Indian about the issues that will dominate the assembly elections.
“Uttarakhand was formed in November 2000. Four assembly elections have been held since and now the state is going into the fifth assembly elections,” he said.
In the previous elections, it alternated between the Congress or the BJP assuming power every five years. Looking at the trend, the people are more inclined towards the national parties instead of regional parties.
Citing the example of voting trend, he said that BJP and Congress shared 54 out of 70 seats in 2007 assembly polls, while in 2012 assembly polls both the parties shared 63 and in 2017 polls they shared 68 seats among themselves. “And when we look at the vote percentage shared by both the parties in last election, then it stands that they shared 80 per cent vote of the state among themselves,” he said.
Nautiyal, who was also the state president of AAP in the state said, “The first three assembly polls witnessed the issues of scams while the 2017 elections were fought on the lines of development.”
Like Nautiyal, former journalist and social worker Arun Sharma also opined that this going to be a direct contest between the two national parties i.e. the BJP and the Congress. Sharma said, “People of the state knows what they want and they have more faith on national parties rather than opting for regional parties,” he shared.
To a question that can Uttarakhand afford two capital cities as it is already under a debt of Rs 66,000 crore and a new capital of Gairsain is being built at a cost of Rs 25,000 crore, Nautiyal said, “People of the state and political parties accept the fact that Uttarakhand has a lot of potential. However, it has not been exploited to the full yet. There is no denying that Uttarakhand is under a huge debt. Calculated per head, you could say that the population of 1.16 crore people has a debt of over Rs 80,000 per head. Even after 21 years, we don’t have one capital city. We are still talking about two capitals and a summer capital.”
Meanwhile, Sharma said that last year former Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat inaugurated the secretariat, staff quarters and assembly just few kilometers before Gairsain with a roadmap of Rs 25,000 crore for next 10 years but the government is yet to take a proper stand.
On the issue of migration from Uttarakhand, Nautiyal, who has worked closely with the Uttarakhand Government as the leader of the free 108 – Emergency services in Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode in the state said, “If permanent migration happens naturally, then it is not wrong. But the issue of distressed migration is worrying. As per the report of the Migration Committee that was presented in 2018, between 2008 to 2018 over 5,02,000 people migrated, out of which 1.18 lakh people left permanently while 3.84 lakh people still have connection with their roots in villages.”
The reason for migration, as mentioned in the report, is that 50 per cent people migrated for employment, 16 per cent for better education, nine per cent people migrated for better medical facilities. “This is nothing short of a tragedy that people migrated from their villages especially near the ones bordering with China as districts like Pithoragarh, Chamoli, Uttarkashi. It should well be seen as a national security threat as now there are not many in those villages who can act as our eyes and ears on the borders,” he said.
Sharma backed his views and said that the migration of people happened for better facilities. “People in armed forces brought their families to cities so that their children could get education properly and their parents can be taken to hospitals in case of emergency,” he said.
Commenting on AAP, Nautiyal said “AAP is contesting assembly polls for the first time in the state and as can be seen in other states as well, they are making promises of free sops to create excitement among voters. But compared to Punjab or Goa, AAP has been unable to create the kind of buzz in the state.”
Among other parties, Mayawati’s BSP vote share seems to be dwindling, especially in plain regions of Haridwar and Udham Singh Nagar where it managed to get 12 per cent vote in 2012, but were reduced to 6-7 per cent in 2017. “So it will be interesting to see how AAP manages to cut into the vote share of BSP in the plain regions,” he said, adding that even the issue of farmers with the repealing of the three farm laws by the central government has now fizzled out.
There is also concern in the state over environmental issues and those related to management of natural disasters, that the state has faced in the past, as well as the issue of mining, he said, “If we look at the states in the Himalayan range, we have seen that Uttarakhand has taken maximum casualties and faced maximum natural disasters. The state has been unable to develop a proper mechanism and planning to deal with such disasters. The worry for environment is real but issues such as these do not get prominence in the state. People need to take these issues up actively and force the politicians to take action.”
Elections in Uttarakhand is due on February 14 and counting of votes will take place on March 10