GROUND REPORT| Haldwani prepares for elections amid mixed sentiments for BJP

With a population of 371,654 and situated 296 kilometers from Delhi, the district holds significant electoral weight. In the final stretch of campaigning, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami led a massive roadshow on the day of Ram Navami, drawing both fervent support and nuanced sentiments from the electorate. The New Indian team reached Haldwani to capture the election mood ahead of the first phase of polling.

| Updated: 21 April, 2024 6:22 pm IST
The New Indian's correspondent talks to locals in Haldwani

NEW DELHI: Haldwani, a district embroiled in recent months due to clashes between the Muslim community and law enforcement over the demolition of illegally constructed madrasas, is poised for elections on April 19th. With a population of 371,654 and situated 296 kilometers from Delhi, the district holds significant electoral weight.

In the final stretch of campaigning, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami led a massive roadshow on the day of Ram Navami, drawing both fervent support and nuanced sentiments from the electorate. The New Indian team reached Haldwani to capture the election mood ahead of the first phase of polling.

While the BJP garnered substantial backing, concerns surfaced regarding the performance of incumbent Ajay Bhatt. Mohammed Shamsaad, a BJP supporter, expressed unwavering confidence in the party’s victory, echoing sentiments of many: “This time too, BJP will prevail, our full support is with them. This time, we’ll cross 400 seats (abki baar 400 paar).”

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However, amidst the enthusiasm, a voice of dissent emerged. Mohammed Ali, a 46-year-old participant in the rally, subtly expressed disillusionment with the BJP’s governance: “The SP government will come, and the Congress’ influence will spread across the country. BJP has not accomplished anything; it’s merely riding the Modi wave.”

 

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The backdrop of violence earlier in February, stemming from the demolition of a mosque and madrasa, casts a shadow over the electoral landscape. Kishor Bhatt, a member of the Haldwani Bar Association, predicted a unilateral victory for the BJP, citing developmental initiatives as pivotal in securing the Muslim vote.

Chandrasekhar Joshi highlighted BJP’s global recognition under Modi’s leadership, contrasting it with previous administrations: “BJP has established India’s identity worldwide. Today our Prime Minister Modi was received at the airport by the American President, during the Congress regime they used to send their officers”.

Criticism was not spared for the opposition alliance, with Shivanshi Joshi branding them as corrupt and opportunistic. “Lalu Yadav to his son Tejashwi Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav to his son Akhilesh Yadav, and even Arvind Kejriwal—all are corrupt. Delhi CM Kejriwal is currently in jail. These individuals have plundered India and have now formed an alliance they call the INDIA Alliance”, said 45 year old Haldwani Bar Association associate.

“In cricket or in politics, both Dhoni and Dhama are capable of hitting a six on the last ball and winning both hearts and matches,” remarked the 45-year-old businessman while conversing with The New Indian. “Dhoni and CM Pushkar Singh Dhami are both formidable. While Chennai Super Kings are dominating in the IPL, Dhami’s moves are making waves in politics.”

 

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In the midst of political fervor, Harish Bhandari, a former BJP worker turned tea seller, articulated the pressing issues faced by villagers in the hilly regions. He appealed for improved healthcare infrastructure, emphasizing the need for an AIIMS hospital and addressing educational challenges.

Highlighting the gap between policy promises and ground realities, Harish lamented the failure to reach marginalised communities, “A lot of issues plague the people in the mountainous regions, with the biggest being the lack of hospitals. Many lose their lives halfway due to this. That’s why I want to request Dhami ji and Modi ji to establish an AIIMS hospital in the mountains. Education also faces challenges,” shared Harish Bhandari, a local tea seller who has previously served as a BJP worker.

He further elaborated, “The housing facilities promised by the BJP haven’t reached the poor; they’re only benefiting a few wealthy individuals. The schemes of the BJP are failing to reach the grassroots and the needy.”

38-year-old Harish, originally from a small hilly village in Kumaon, has been selling tea for the past 5 years after his stint as a BJP worker. As Haldwani braces for elections, the diverse range of opinions reflects the complexity of its socio-political landscape.

 

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