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Rearranging the Deck Chairs on the Uttarakhand Titanic

September 10, 2011

The BJP once again decides to rearrange the deck chairs on its “Titanic” regime by swapping Chief Ministers ahead of assembly elections. Even while decrying the corruption allegations as baseless, the party high command has basically affirmed the severely damaging charges against “Nishank” Ramesh Pokhriyal and his regime. It is indeed ironic that the BJP now returns to B.C. Khanduri who was himself overthrown in 2009 by the overwhelming dissidence of his MLAs led by former chief minister Bhagat Singh Koshiyari.

Will these games be enough to save a regime that has brought Uttarakhand to a new low of corruption and despair? While Khanduri remains popular (mainly because he has echoed the general sentiment that Uttarakhand has experienced 10 years of failure since achieving statehood as well as presented a meticulously polished military persona), it remains to be seen whether he has learned the hard lessons of his first two unsuccessful years as chief minister. The principal complaint against him then — his authoritarian one-man army approach to governance — may indeed return as he cannot trust any of his current cabinet that have participated in the same corruption that has brought the regime into such utter disrepute.

Moreover, these electoral calculations should not sit well with most people. The rank opportunism and backstabbing that has gone on in the ruling party since Uttarakhand was created (swapping chief ministers three times in six years) has stretched the credulity of the electorate and now also stained Khanduri. Unfortunately this same factionalism has probably mortally wounded the UKD as the divide between party workers and those enjoying the spoils of government has grown ever larger. The Congress as well is divided several fold, and it will be hard for them to project a united front and a charismatic leader, while maintaining party discipline. The most principled forces in Uttarakhand sadly remain sidelined by the power of money, muscle, and mafia that has hijacked the state. Whither Uttarakhand indeed.