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Uttarakhand Election 2012: With Hope and Despair
Annpurna Nautiyal , 3/1/2012

The assembly elections are around the corner in Uttarakhand and every political party is striving hard to secure its position by wooing the voters through various gimmicks like holding of rallies and public meetings, making opportunistic alliances, announcements and assurances, etc. But the voters’ have different perceptions and it is not simple and easy to gauge their mood.

On the one hand, it is very interesting to note that both the national parties have adopted the strategy of denying tickets to a few non-performing cabinet ministers and sitting legislators so that their report card before the voters could be presented as most impeccable, but on the other hand providing tickets to leaders who till this election belonged to other parties and have made these parties a victim of their own political game.

The disgruntled legislators or politicians who have been denied tickets have decided to contest as independents or shifted their loyalties to the Uttarakhand Raksha Morcha, which is being projected as an alternative to the Congress and BJP in the state. This can be seen in every constituency of Uttarakhand on the assumption that people would not mind these tactics and vote for their candidates. 

In view of this, it seems that the main agenda of the political parties has become to select the promising candidates who have the capacity and popularity to win their seats rather than provide the voters the solutions of the issues that are so important for the people of this backward state. Even the Uttarakhand Raksha Morcha (URM) is not left behind in this game of getting hold of the disgruntled candidates who have been denied tickets by the Congress and BJP and fielding them as its own candidates.

This strategy seems most workable for the URM. However, a large segment of voters feels that by doing so, the Uttarakhand Raksha Morcha, instead of being their alternative, is almost like a mirror image of the Congress and BJP and, therefore, it is likely to lose its relevance, purpose and freshness for which it stands.

It may be understood that in its despair to field the candidates from more than forty constituencies, the wooing and capturing of candidates might have been done by the Morcha, but such compromise and deviation from its promise of giving a corruption free and development based government is lost somewhere under these opportunistic settlements.

The avoidance of concerns that are very vital to the people and the ongoing political alliances and (mis)calculations by different parties have allowed the people to feel cheated that even after 10 years of the establishment of Uttarakhand, were the politicians unaware of the issues for which the state was created? 

The looting of the resources, amassing of wealth and apathetic and insensitive attitude of the politicians towards people’s problems is making people desperate. The hopes and desires generated from the formation of Uttarakahnd are giving way to despair and frustration.

The people have now started questioning how most of these politician who just few years ago led a very ordinary life with limited means in Uttarakhand accumulated so much of wealth in such a short time. Therefore, the people now have a right to know the sources of wealth accumulated by their representatives in such a short spell of their political careers. 

Why do the institutions managed by the government remain unable to perform and acquire notoriety for their inefficiency, corruption and slackness? The corruption in all the sectors and inefficiency has now become so deeply rooted that it is reflected in every step in Uttarakhand and there is hardly any area where it can be claimed that a small state has shown the way to the country.

The lack of governance and proper management is making Uttarakhand, a resource rich state, a virtually ungovernable and corrupt state ruled by incompetent and incapable people. Why people of repute, integrity, pioneering work and ideas have not been involved in the policy making and governance like America, where academicians or experts from different areas form the team of the advisors of the Presidents and propose and prepare the policy initiatives which the Presidents can follow during their tenure?

Why is such preparation avoided, and politicians always remain devoid of ideas on development and issues? Why is accountability for nonperformance not fixed and punished? Such a political scenario has made development also a politicized word, with the result it becomes either Congress or BJP’s agenda. 

Actually the competitive tendency to take credit for any development scheme by both the political parties has also made development a casualty of intense political rivalry. 

In my opinion, if the policy makers or executers could have focused on the development of one district at one time and developed full infrastructural facilities in that district, I think within 10 years at least half the districts could have been fully developed and equipped with the best infrastructure facilities and the tide of migration from hills to the plains could have also been controlled. However, not just politicians or administrators are responsible for this mess.

The people of Uttarakhand who made sacrifices for its cause are also equally responsible for this culture of taking everything for granted, the slack attitude, not respecting the laws and developing the culture of movements and bribes for the quick delivery of goods and services. Such character also allows the representatives to distribute doles and not worry about their responsibilities and indulge in corrupt practices.

The populist declarations also lead to corruption, which has actually become the destiny of Uttarakhand. Mobocracy or populist democracy can neither change the fate of Uttrakhand nor provide any assurance on people’s hopes and despairs. The 2012 assembly election is also destined to bring more despair than hopes among the people due to the several unanswered questions and people’s own character and declining moral values.

Dr. Annpurna Nautiyal, a Fulbright Scholar, is a Professor and Head of Department, Political Science, HNB Garhwal University, Srinagar, Garhwal. She was also former Dean of the Faculty of Arts of the HNB Garhwal University. Reprinted with permission of the author. First printed in the Garhwal Post on 18 January, 2012.