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The “Behad Jhagralu Party” of Uttarakhand.

Pokhriyal as Khanduri -11: Will it make any difference?

Dr Nitin Pandey


It almost seems like a new party in Uttarakhand, the Behad Jhagralu Party or the BJP in short. Defeat in the General Elections this year has converted a disciplined, cadre based party into a free for all party in the center and in our State. And in this chaos, fight is for personal ambition and the biggest looser is the Party.

Now that Round 2 of this fight in Uttarakhand has finished with the “crowning” of Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, the question on everyone’s mind is will this give the State a stable and effective government it deserves and stop the infighting in BJP?

At first glance, the manner of Nishank’s coronation seems to belie the hope.

BJP MLAs during the meeting, in Delhi, were told firmly by the Central Observers that Khanduri and Koshiyari were not to be considered under orders of the Party High Command and, as one media report suggested, were also told that High Command preferred that Pokhriyal be elected as their leader. Gen. Khanduri had also endorsed Nishank as his candidate, the night before. Even then Prakash Pant stood up for the contest, apparently with Koshiyari’s blessing. MLA’s were given slips to write down their preferences and reports suggest a 23-13 win for Pokhriyal. Surprisingly Venkaiya Naidu, one of the Central Observers, later told the media that Pokhriyal was elected “unanimously” by the MLA’s. In an indication of persisting dissent, Prakash Pant and some other MLAs left the meeting before Pokhriyal was declared elected and met Koshiyari in Uttarakhand Bhawan. Pokhriyal and Khanduri came and left in the same car.

It is obvious that while he could not save his own chair, Khanduri got to choose his successor. After he was declared the CM designate, Pokhriyal, at a press conference, said that Gen. Khanduri was his mentor and he would carry forward Gen. Khanduri’s vision and policies for Uttarakhand. But will BJP as a party benefit from having Pokhriyal as Khanduri – 11?

Uttarakhand BJP clearly needs to solve the factional problem it faces. What it needed was a leader who would rise above these factions and lead a united party. What it got instead was another leader from the same faction, which seems unlikely to lead to unity in the party. Keeping Koshiyari in the Rajya Sabha in the hope that he will not then meddle in state politics is wishful thinking. Replacing one faction with another was also not the solution.

The way forwards is, perhaps, for Pokhriyal to grow out of the shadows of Gen. Khanduri. Pokhriyal’s performance as a minister in UP and Uttarakhand was much appreciated. His poetic nature lends a degree of malleability in him. He is a soft spoken person capable of carrying everyone along with him. Therefore, instead of being a continuation of Khanduri as Khanduri -11, Pokhriyal should carve out a brand of his own. He must reach out to Bhagatda and mend fences with him. Involving Bhagatda in solving the problems of the State rather than banishing him to the Center could perhaps be a better option. A “unity” cabinet could give Uttarakhand the much needed stability. Instead of following Gen. Khanduri’s vision of Uttarakhand, it would be much better if he enunciated and followed his own vision of Uttarakhand and injected a breath of fresh air in the faction ridden BJP of Uttarakhand.

Till then the Bharitya Janta Party in Uttarakhand, will remain the Behad Jhagralu Party and it is only a matter of time before the next “jhagara” props up. Repeated crises hamper functioning of the Government; are detrimental to the development of the State and damages the image of BJP. BJP’s electoral fortunes will only spiral downwards if it cannot overcome its factional politics and for this, Pokhriyal must not be Khanduri –Two!

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