It was a rainy Saturday afternoon in Dehradun. Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami had wound up after recording a video message at the adjoining camp office—his official residence, a 10-acre affair on New Cantonment Road that his predecessors thought to be jinxed, would have seemed an auspicious place to park himself on such a day. Winter rains cause more than just a dip in temperatures in these parts, and he had had to suspend his campaign travel. It would have been foolhardy to risk getting stuck on a winding mountain highway, with a landslide ahead and a steep fall on one side, just a fortnight or so before polling.
That hypothetical scenario, in fact, can well serve as a visual metaphor for the situation 46-year-old Dhami finds himself in. The hill state casts its ballot on February 14 to elect a new 70-member assembly, and the dew-fresh CM, coronated only last July, could well be staring at a future that’s blocked off, with peril lurking on all sides. Indeed, in that locked-down pose, Dhami could well symbolise any young Uttarakhandi, facing a similar cul-de-sac when it comes to life-chances. That’s precisely why he is meeting this battle with a campaign designed to appeal to that demographic. With good reason—60 per cent of the state’s voters are younger than Dhami. Promising to unlock futures for everyone would be a good start.
History is his first obstacle. No Uttarakhand CM, except N.D. Tiwari, has ever completed his tenure or managed a repeat mandate. In fact, in the last two assembly polls, the incumbent CMs had to face ignominious defeats in their own seats—in 2017, Harish Rawat lost from both the segments he contested.
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