BJP retains power in U'khand but CM Dhami loses

Pushkar Singh Dhami is new Uttarakhand CM
Pushkar Singh Dhami

Dehradun: The BJP on Thursday retained power Uttarakhand with a comfortable majority, breaking the trend of the hill state voting out the ruling party, but Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami lost from the Khatima assembly constituency.

The BJP has won 47 assembly seats out of the total 70, belying pollsters who had predicted a close race between the saffron party and the Congress.

The Congress won 18 seats and was leading in one seat by a very narrow margin, while its campaign head and former chief minister Harish Rawat lost to Mohan Singh Bisht of the BJP in Lalkuwa.

The Aam Aadmi Party which had promised a number of freebies could not open its account despite fielding candidates from all the 70 seats.

Dhami lost by a margin of 6,579 votes to Bhuwan Chandra Kapri of Congress in Khatima. The defeat of the chief minister who led the BJP's campaign against the Congress in the state throws up a big question before the saffron party on the issue of choosing the next chief minister.

Dhami was appointed the chief minister last July, replacing Tirath Singh Rawat who resigned within four months of taking charge from Trivendra Singh Rawat.

The Congress had targeted the BJP for changing chief ministers twice in a short span, accusing it of causing "political instability" and betraying the people.

The opposition party, plagued by infighting, failed in its mission to dislodge the BJP and avenge its rout in 2017 assembly polls where it had won just 11 seats against the BJP's 57.

Though throwing a spirited challenge to the BJP as the Congress' poll campaign head for the state, Rawat lost to Mohan Singh Bisht of the BJP in Lalkuwa by over 17,000 votes.

AAP's chief ministerial candidate Colonel Ajay Kothiyal lost from the Gangotri seat where the BJP candidate won and the Congress came second.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia had made several visits to the state during the run-up to the polls promising free electricity up to 300 units to every household, an unemployment allowance, a monthly allowance to women aged above 18 years and free pilgrimage to the elderly.

Political pundits attributed the BJP's impressive poll showing in Uttarakhand to the Narendra Modi factor above everything else.

"The prime minister's special care for Uttrakhand and its interests was evident in major projects like the Chardham all-weather road, Rishikesh-Karnaprayag rail line, Kedarnath and Badrinath reconstruction," Doon-based poll-watcher S S Negi said.

"The double engine factor also worked in favour of the saffron party as people apparently felt it was necessary for the continued development of the state with Modi going to be at the helm in New Delhi till at least 2024," he said.

The BJP got a vote share of 44.3 percent, the Congress around 38 percent.

Rawat admitted that the Congress had failed to win the trust of the people.

"However, with an increased mandate we have been given the task of playing the role of the main opposition to which we will do justice," he told reporters as the electoral drought that began for Rawat with his defeat from Kichcha and Hardwar (rural) in 2017 continued.

He had lost from Nainital constituency in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and now from Lakuwa.

Rawat was fielded from Lalkuwa after his candidature from Ramnagar was opposed by his own party colleague and one-time close associate Ranjeet Rawat.

However, Ranjeet Rawat was also shifted to Salt where he lost to BJP's Mahesh Jeena by 3,688 votes.

The state also saw some revival of the BSP which had drawn a blank in the 2017 polls.

The BSP's Shahzad won the Laksar seat in Haridwar district by 10,440 votes while its candidate in Manglaur Sarwat Kareem Ansari defeated Qazi Mohammad Nizamuddin of Congress.

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