In the run-up to the 2022 assembly elections, it seems soldiers are the prime focus of both the ruling BJP and opposition Congress in Uttarakhand.

For Rahul Gandhi’s rally on Thursday, a cut-out of General Bipin Rawat — who recently died in a tragic helicopter crash — has been prominently placed along with that of the former Congress president and ex-prime minister Indira Gandhi. Notably, the size of Rawat’s cut-out is bigger than that of Rahul Gandhi’s.

Families of serving and ex-soldiers play a crucial role in the state’s election arena. A day earlier on Wednesday, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh laid the foundation stone of a war memorial in Dehradun. The entry gate of the memorial has been named after General Rawat. The ruling party also felicitated close to 200 families of martyrs on the occasion.

The Congress too plans to focus on soldiers’ issues in Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Vijay Samman Rally’ on December 16 when Bangladesh celebrates 50 years of independence from Pakistan. In 1971, Indira Gandhi gave the go-ahead to Indian forces who ultimately crushed Pakistan.

“General Bipin Rawat was the country’s pride. He has a connection with Uttarakhand. General Rawat always stood for the social cause in his home state. (The cut-outs) are our mark of respect to the great soldier”. The party has also invited ex-soldiers to the rally. Some of them were seen being garlanded by Godiyal.

However, the ruling BJP has accused Congress of ‘dragging’ General Rawat in petty party politics. “Congress’s sudden affection for soldiers is understood in this election season. They should have kept General Rawat’s name away from their politics” said Vipin Kainthola, party spokesperson.