Uphill rescue: On change of guard in Uttarakhand

The top change in Uttarakhand is indicative of the limits of running a State from New Delhi

The change of guard in a State, giving up on its handpicked person, is uncharacteristic of the BJP leadership, and hence marks discontinuity. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity continues to be the key driver of BJP politics, and he has held tight control over the party, including on State units and Chief Ministers. Leaders with an autonomous political base have been seen as rivals, at best tolerated and rarely encouraged or promoted. But this model has proven costly in Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand, where the party’s setbacks were attributed to the style of functioning of former CMs. Therein lies the paradox and dilemma of the BJP’s approach to leadership. The party’s rise as a behemoth has been advanced in significant measure by regional satraps and Mr. Modi himself was one. Since 2014, the BJP and Mr. Modi became synonymous, and the party’s national profile is now built on the notion of a strong leader. In States where leaders project strength without corresponding skills and popularity, the disenchantment brews in the ranks. On the other hand, leaders with limited mass appeal have helped the party maintain balance among rival social groups within its camp. Uttar Pradesh, where CM Yogi Adityanath is building his own style of strong leadership, is a notable exception. The change in leadership in Uttarakhand is indicative of the limits of running a State from Delhi.

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