Close fight between BJP and Congress in Uttarakhand

By Brishti Ganguly

With Uttarakhand's history of alternating governments between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Indian National Congress every assembly elections, the state's exit polls are fueling speculations over the result of this year's elections.

The exit polls released by various news channels on 7th March show a tough fight between the two parties with overlapping figures. While the India Today and the Times Now have predicted 36-46 seats for the BJP and 20-31 seats for the Congress, the Republic and the ABP news have shown Congress bagging 32-38 seats and the BJP 26-34.

The hill state of Uttarakhand has 70 Vidhan Sabha seats on which the assembly elections were held on the 14th of February, 2022.

The election process started in the state when the election notification was issued on 21st January, 2022 and the same is expected to conclude on the 10th of March when the counting of votes will be done.

The outgoing government in the state was formed by the BJP in 2017 assembly elections where it won with a clear majority of 57 seats, while Congress formed the opposition with 11 seats.

Apart from BJP and Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party, Uttarakhand Kranti Dal and Aam Aadmi Party also have a presence in the state, the latter being the most recent one.

In 2012, Congress won 32 seats and formed the government with the help of BSP, UKD and independent MLAs. The state has a tendency to vote out the incumbent government every assembly elections, since it's formation in 2000.

Uttarakhand has also had a trend of its chief ministers not being able to complete their entire term, which has given the state 11 chief ministers in just 4 assembly elections.

Pushkar Singh Dhami is the current chief minister of the state, who assumed office on 4th July, 2021 after replacing Tirath Singh Rawat who resigned after getting involved in controversies. Dhami, who has been a two-time MLA from Khatima constituency, is the youngest chief minister of Uttarakhand at age 45. He has also been a prominent figure in BJP's poll campaign this year.

These elections will not only determine the fate of Dhami, but also many other important candidates of the Congress party such as of the state party president Ganesh Godiyal who contested from Srinagar. While the Congress had yielded former chief minister Harish Rawat from Lalkuan, he has been in the forefront of the congress' poll campaign for the entire state.

On one hand, the BJP has sought votes in the name of a double-engine government for the state’s uninterrupted development, the Congress has tried to gain lost ground on the basis of issues it raised about inflation, unemployment and change of chief ministers in quick succession.

A total of 632 candidates contested the assembly elections this year in Uttarakhand. Neither BJP nor Congress declared their chief ministerial candidates in the state.

According to the election commission's data, the state recorded a voter turnout of 65.37%. While the male voter turnout stood at 62.6%, the female voter turnout stood almost 5% more than the male voter turnout at 67.2%.

Out of the 70 assembly seats of the state, 54 belong to the general category, 14 are reserved for the scheduled castes, and 2 for the scheduled tribes. Voting on all of the 70 seats was done in a single phase on the 14th of February which began at 8 am and ended at 6 pm. The process was largely peaceful, except small level scuffle between the political party supporters in Haridwar and Nainital.

There are a total of 81,72,173 voters in the state and 11,647 polling booths spread across 8,624 locations, according to the Election Commission's data. For the first time in the state, 101 all-women 'Sakhi-polling booths' were set up with women polling officials, to boost women's participation in the elections. Six polling booths managed by persons with disabilities were also set up for the differently abled.

Uttarakhand is one of the five states that has gone to polls this year. The other states include Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa and Manipur.

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