Dehradun: It is estimated that there are over 20 lakh electors in the poll-bound Uttarakhand who have at least one such kin who are either retired defence personnel or are still serving in the troops.  This figure constitutes nearly one third of the total number of voters in the state. This segment of voters is bound to dominate the election results in the state and realizing their importance on the eve of elections, political parties and their leaders are chasing them to seek their support which is crucial in deciding their political fortunes.

While formulating their strategies to consolidate their poll prospects, major stakeholders- Congress, BJP and Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKD)- have formed ex-army personnel cells which have the presence of ex-brigadiers, ex-colonels and even ex-Generals. More so, the parties have fielded retired army officers in different constituencies to dent poll prospects of their adversary.

Gauging the significance of military vote bank in the hill state, retired General TS Rawat has formed his own party ‘Raksha Morcha’ after parting his ways from both the Congress and the BJP. 

“We are fighting against the rising graft cases. Everyone is aware of the fact that a retired army officer works honestly, therefore, it is expected that the defence electorate will support the ‘Raksha Morcha’,” said TS Rawat.

A survey reveals that there are about 500,000 voters in the state who are either still serving in the troops or have retired form defence services.

Hitherto, the election scenario in the state is a bit different from others. It is expected that political battle would be three cornered as the Congress, the BJP and TS Rawat are in the field. Considering the conventional voting pattern, electorates with military background are more inclined towards the retired army officers who are contesting elections on the tickets of various parties.

“According to the voting trend in the past assembly elections, over 90 voters prefer to vote for BJP in almost all constituencies provided our major adversary has not fielded any retired military officer against our candidate. It clearly indicates that this specific section of defence staff favours the BJP,” said Deepti Rawat, spokesperson of Uttarakhand BJP.

In a bid to retain the support of this section of electorates in the state, BJP has favoured the proposal of ‘One Rank One Pension’ as its major poll plank. Following this, the Congress party has also intensified its efforts to woo this section of voters. During the public contact rally, the Congress candidates are trying to show their seriousness towards the families linked to defence services.  In various public meetings, the Congress leaders are showing their sympathy towards the issues concerning this section of voters.

Lashing out at BJP over the issue of ‘One Rank One Pension’ Scheme, the vice-president of the Uttarakhand Congress, Subodh Uniyal, said, “The proposal was initially floated by the Congress. The BJP has exploited retired army officers.”