Single-day poll in Uttarakhand, Goa today; BJP and Congress in close fight

Regional parties are also trying to make inroads in these states that have traditionally been ruled by the two parties

New Delhi: Taking on the incumbent BJP, the Congress is all set to fight it out in a very close contest in the poll-bound states of Uttarakhand and Goa. Both the states vote in a single phase on Monday. The high-octane campaigns in the two states have poised the match evenly. Regional parties are also trying to make inroads in these states that have traditionally been ruled by the two parties. The Trinamul Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party had an aggressive campaign strategy in Goa. The TMC in Goa managed to pull several candidates from other parties to itself while the AAP is on the poll plank of a corruption-free government. In Uttarakhand, the AAP has been campaigning for the past few months and has attracted leaders from other parties too. AAP chief ministerial candidate Ajay Kothiyal is contesting from Gangotri.

The 70-member Assembly in Uttarakhand has seen a liberal interchange of leaders between the Congress and the BJP. BJP government ministers Harak Singh Rawat and his family and Yashpal Arya and his son are now in the Congress. The Congress’ former state unit chief Kishore Upadhyay and Mahila Congress state chief Sarita Arya are now in the BJP. In the 70-member Assembly, 36 is the majority mark. There are 22 seats in the Garhwal region, 20 in Kumaon and 28 in the plains, or Maidan. In the 2017 Assembly election, the BJP won 57 seats and the Congress 11. It was the highest number of seats any party won after the state’s formation.

The key seats include Khatima, Lalkuan, Srinagar, Gangotri, Lansdowne, and Kotdwar. BJP’s chief minister, Pushkar Singh Dhami, is standing from Khatima, while Congress’ Harish Rawat is contesting from Lalkuan. The three repealed farm laws will also be a major factor in the plains as the protests against these laws also took place in this region. In a bid to buttress his commitment to the state, chief minister Pushkar Dhami has announced his plans to implement a uniform civil code if voted to power, to which the Congress has said that he needs “sound legal advice”. The Congress has promised that if it wins, four lakh youths will get jobs, a gas cylinder will cost less than Rs 500 and five lakh poor households will get Rs 40,000 per year. The election campaign saw high-profile visits from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath. Since its inception in 2001, the state has not yet repeated the party in power in any election.

The 40-member Goa Assembly is seeing a multi-cornered contest. The Trinamul Congress and the AAP are also trying their luck in Goa. In the last five years alone, 27 out of 40 state legislators in Goa have switched parties. Party-hopping after the results is a serious concern of the central leaderships of all parties. The main issues in this election include the restart of mining, jobs and boosting tourism. At least six Assembly seats have been affected directly and indirectly by the ban on mining in the state, and the issue may decide the fate of many candidates. CM Pramod Sawant’s constituency, too, is affected by the issue. The BJP has pledged that it will restart mining within six months of coming to power.

The Congress and the AAP have also promised sustainable mining. The Christian votes in the state have been a challenge for the BJP, especially in the Salcete belt that has eight constituencies and a Christian population of almost 40 per cent. However, the BJP is also giving tickets to influential Christians who have joined the BJP from the Congress. The BJP has given tickets to 12 Christian candidates.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched a scathing attack on the Congress saying that Goa could have been liberated “within hours” in 1947 when India attained Independence, but it took 15 years for the state to be freed from Portuguese rule because the Congress did not do anything for 15 years. This claim had been strongly countered by the Congress. Since the Assembly has only 40 members and the winning margins are narrow, almost 10 parties have fielded their candidates, including the MGP, GVP and UGDP. These smaller parties, along with the Independent candidates, will also hold sway in government formation. The result in both states will be announced on March 10.

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