Campaign fever grips U'khand

Assembly polls 2017: Congress, BJP locked in keen tussle in state

Campaign fever grips U'khand

Campaigning for the Uttarakhand Assembly election reached a crescendo on Sunday.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed rallies in Srinagar and Pithoragarh, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi led an impressive roadshow in the Haridwar plains.

The Congress and the BJP are locked in a keen tussle. Chief Minister Harish Rawat has pitched the election campaign around himself, even as a strong Modi wave holds sway in the hill areas that account for 34 of the 70 Assembly seats.

The BJP’s attempts to dislodge the Rawat government in March last year with the help of Congress rebels has trumped all other issues, with voters surmising whether the turncoats would stick to the party they have joined in case of a hung Assembly.

Uttarakhand comprises two broad divisions – Garhwal and Kumaon – each having distinct voting patterns in the hills and the plains. Upper caste voters – Brahmins and Rajputs – dominate the hill regions, while in the plains of Haridwar, Kotdwar, Udham Singh Nagar and Rampur Muslims, SC and ST voters have the ability to sway the elections.

In the hills, Bachan Singh, a retired school teacher-turned-shopkeeper, swears by Modi.

 “I have been a BJP voter all my life. I will be loyal to the party. The turncoats will have to abide by what Modi says,” said Singh, sitting in his grocery shop in Dhaulidhar village, nestled in the Lower Himalayas en route to Srinagar.

On Sunday, Rahul’s 75-km roadshow snaked through villages from Manglour, considered the gateway to Uttarakhand as one drives from Delhi to Har ki Pauri on the banks of the Ganga in Haridwar.

The Congress had planned the route with an aim to woo the minority, SC and ST voters, who dominate the region.

The BSP has considerable hold in the region, abutting Uttar Pradesh.

“We threw trash out of the Congress, and Modi has picked them up and is keeping them in his party,” Rahul said during the roadshow.

In his rallies in Srinagar and Pithoragarh, the prime minister dwelt at length on the implementation of the ‘one rank, one pension’ decision of his government. Uttarakhand is home to a large number of serving and retired armed forces personnel.

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