BJP, Cong face internal strife in HP
Anti-incumbency, graft charges trouble Congress as BJP tries to paper over faction feud
After making an impressive comeback in Uttarakhand a few months ago, BJP is betting big on another bordering hill state, Himachal Pradesh, which goes to polls on November 9.
Like Uttarakhand, Himachal, which has a history of throwing out incumbent governments every five years, is also under Congress rule, where its old war horse Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh is battling age and serious corruption charges.
Barring Punjab, where it was a junior partner in alliance government headed by Akali Dal, BJP has done well in states, where ever it fought Congress as the main rival. BJP, which had won 26 of 68 seats in the state in last elections, has fixed a target of 50-plus seats this time.
While Congress is pitching for ‘Mission Repeat’ in the 2017 Assembly polls, BJP is confident that the alternate mandate trend in the hill state will continue. It has taken steps to address the issue of internal dissension, placating different sections. The saffron party’s confidence also stems from the fact that it had won all the four seats in 2014 Lok Sabha polls in the state with substantial margins.
Congress, which has dismissed the cases against Virbhadra Singh as “political vendetta”, is hopeful that the “political witch-hunt” pitch by Raja would help create a sympathy wave and could be counter productive for the BJP. The other side, however, feels that the charges against the Chief Minister are too serious to create any sympathy wave for him. But there are clear indications that the BJP would not like to see the CM being arrested before the polls, which some apprehend, may boomerang.
Singh, 82, is a five-term CM, the fulcrum of Congress politics in the state. He has many a time forced the Congress top leadership to give in to his demands in the affairs of Himachal Pradesh.
Hence Raja is once again the face of Congress for the assembly poll notwithstanding his recent run in with state Congress chief Sukhvinder Singh Sukhoo. BJP is investing hugely in its Union Minister JP Nadda but has not declared any CM candidate.
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh