Uttarakhand was once a state reliant on the money order economy and huge liquor revenues.Today the hill state has come a long way. And there is no better example than the fact that when the Tata Nano car rolls out at theend of March, it will do so from the Pantnagar plant in Uttarakhand.
Unlike Uttar Pradesh – which has always been an epicenter of Indianpolitics – Uttarakhand might not have a history full of glorious political tales and flamboyant political stars such as the Nehrus and Gandhis, tall leaders of the stature of Atal Bihari Vajpayee or political heavy-weights like the Mulayams and the Mayawatis; but read Uttrakhand’s brief political history and you will be forced to believe in the maxim: ‘the smaller the better’.
Unlike its ‘elder sibling’– Uttar Pradesh –from which the hill statewas carved out in 2000, Uttarakhand might not have a decisive 80 Lok Sabha seats, but this young state has made remarkable progress after its separation from UP. Today Uttarakhand boasts of better roads, uninterrupted power-supply; and slowly and steadily thestate is becoming an investment destination.
Who is responsible for the remarkable growth of this hill state which was once called a money-order economy? It was called so because people who wereforced to migrate from the hills for jobs used to send money back to their parents or relatives in those days through money-orders.
The demand for a separate state of Uttarakhand is a decades-old one. People of this hill state had long back realised that social empowerment (and subsequent development of the people) would not be possible without political power. This was precisely what theleaders from Uttarakhand had in their mind when they started raising demands for a separate hillstate even before India became independent. It was none other than the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who in the late 1940s addressed a political convention of the Congress in Srinagar, Garhwal, andaccepted that considering the geography of the state ‘the people should have the right to frame policies and take decisions for themselves on important issues.’
After Independence, demands for aseparate state were raised by hill leaders from time to time, but small demonstrations could not convert into full-scale agitation. In 1979, for the first time, a political party was formed with the sole purpose of raising the demand of statehood for Uttarakhand. The party was Uttarakhand Kranti Dal or UKD. The agitation, however, could not become a mass movement until recommendations of the Mandal commission were implemented by the then Prime Minister V. P Singh in the1990s.
This sparked off a major controversy and overnight Singh became a villain, especially among the upper-caste youth in the UP hills. As a majority of the population in Uttarakhand comprised upper-castes, mostly Brahmins and Rajputs, reservation fuelled daily youth agitations. The agitation against the Mandal Commission soon became a mass movement and voices for a separate statehood grew even shriller. By the early mid-90s, women were organising rallies, former Army personnel became busy taking out protest marches while the youth resorted to violence.
While the UKD initially spearheaded the movement, the national parties after their initial reluctance to join the movement, too, were forced to join the agitation.
After former prime minister VP Singh, it was now UP chief ministerMulayam Singh Yadav’s turn to become a villain for the Uttarakhandis. The agitation reached its feverish best after the infamous Rampur-tiraha episode in which the UP police allegedly killed several youth who were on their way to Delhi for a protest march. The police did not even spare the women accompanying these youth and had allegedly raped several of them. What followed were protestsall over Uttarakhand where angry citizens destroyed public property and several were killed in police firing.
It was only in the year 2000 that the Vajpayee government sent the UP Reorganisation Bill 2000 andpaved the way for the creation ofa separate state which was christened as Uttaranchal. The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha in July 2000 and on November 9 the same year, a new government led by the BJP was formed in Dehradun. Nityanand Swami, who was the chairperson of the Upper House in UP, became the first chiefminister of the state.
These are the some of the tumultuous events that have shaped the electoral map of Uttarakhand. While the BJP laid claims to the formation of the newstate, people chose to defeat the BJP in the first Assembly elections in 2002 and the Congress emergedas the single largest party. Congress leader N.D Tewari was sworn in as the chief minister. Though his government ran for a full five-year term, Tewari’s tenure was marked by several scandals, and rampant corruption and infighting.
In the 2007 Assembly elections riding the anti-incumbency wave, the BJP came back to power but fell just one seat short of a majority. With support from the UKD, Maj Gen BC Khanduri, representing the Garhwal constituency, was sworn in as the new chief minister of the state. Today Khanduri is seen as an achievement-oriented chief minister who has imposed a range of cost-cutting measures in administration and official foreign travel.
Now all eyes are on the results of the Lok Sabha. 0
Though Uttarakhand witnesses a bi-polar contest between the BJP and Congress, the
Samajwadi Party and BSP do have some presence inthe plains. In the 2004 elections, the Samajwadi Party managed to bag the Haridwar seat which was a stronghold of the BJP before the formation of the new state. The BSP contested in 3 seats but forfeited its deposits in 2 seats; although the party managed to increase its vote share to almost 7 per cent.
But unlike UP, where regional parties have virtually marginalised the national parties such as the BJP and Congress, Uttarakhand continues to be a safe bet for these two national parties.
Although the BJP managed to bag three seats and the Congress managed just one, the Congress was not far behind in terms of percentage of votes. While the BJP got just 40.98 per cent, the Congress managed 38.31 per cent votes.
Interestingly, people have virtually rejected the regional parties such as the UKD. In the 2004 LS elections, the UKD only got 1.6 percent votes and all four UKD candidates forfeited their deposits.As this nine-year-‘young’ state gears up for its second Lok Sabha polls, what issues will dominate in the elections? Will development be the key issue or will infighting hurtthe prospects of the national parties? Will people stamp their verdict on national issues or will regional emotions come into play? Whatever be the outcome of the forthcoming elections, one thing is certain: Even though UP continues to shape national politics, its young off-shoot Uttrakhand has badly beaten its elder brother in all other departments- be it development, citizen’s security, governance and above all fulfilling people’s aspirations
The answer is simple: because of its small size.