The hill state of Uttarakhand is gearing up for its fourth assembly polls. While everything about it is political, for one man, Harish Rawat, the polls are likely to be a personal battle. Apart from the internal opposition that Rawat faces from within the Congress, the Uttarakhand CM must also win back those former congressmen whose rebellion cost him his post in 2016.
More than one-fourth of the Bharatiya Janata Party candidates in the 70 seat Uttarakhand assembly are former members of the Congress party. Nine Congress MLAs rebelled against Rawat in March 2016 which led to President's rule imposed in the state. Despite his almost immediate return to the chief minister's post, Rawat's image had taken a massive hit due to the rebellion and the exodus that followed. This time around almost all rebel Congress leaders have been fielded in the same constituencies by the BJP. Former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, former assembly speaker and former cabinet minister Yashpal Arya, former cabinet minister and former leader of Opposition Harak Singh Rawat and former Congress rebel MLA Subodh Uniyal are just some of these names. Tickets to these former Congress partymen is a clear indication by the BJP that their fight is with Harish Rawat directly.
While dissent in the BJP over turncoats getting tickets was evident, the Congress faces an even grimmer situation. The BJP has convinced their leaders to stay united and acknowledged the acumen of senior BJP functionaries in handing tickets to winnable candidates while the Congress continues to be a divided house. Close to 25 leaders have quit the Congress in the last 10 months blaming Rawat of authoritarianism.
The very fact that Rawat has chosen to contest from two seats of Haridwar Rural and Kichha in a bid to re-strengthen the Congress after Yashpal Arya and Bahuguna's exit shows that it is much beyond politics for him. Despite being at loggerheads with Congress state chief Kishore Upadhyay, the Congress is heavily dependent on Harish Rawat to lead them to victory. Even as he fights against once fellow party leaders and now arch rivals, the Rajput-Brahmin equations and Garhwal-Kumaon division have worsened the differences between him and Upadhyay.