Lot at stake for BJP, Congress in Himachal polls
Polls are also litmus test for BJP chief Amit Shah’s organisational skills, who managed to quash intraparty squabbles
SHIMLA: The state assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh have a lot at stake for the ruling Congress and opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.
For the hill state which does not wield much influence over national politics, the outcome of these elections along with Gujarat this time will set the tone for Lok Sabha elections in 2019 and are crucial for both the Congress and BJP.
ORIGINALLY A CONGRESS BASTION
The Congress continuously ruled the state for three tenures from 1963 to 1977, before Bharatiya Janata Party’s (then Janata Party) Shanta Kumar broke the monopoly and formed the first non-Congress government. Since then, power in Himachal has alternated between the Congress and BJP.
This time, BJP is putting in all its might to make a comeback and is banking upon Narendra Modi’s charisma while highlighting the schemes doled out during his three-year regime at the Centre.
Modi, who was once in-charge for BJP’s state affairs, repeatedly visited Himachal to bolster party’s campaign while national president Amit Shah himself focused on the party’s prospects holding rallies, meetings and conventions in the hill state.
Elections in Himachal are litmus test for Shah’s organisational skills, who managed to keep intra-party squabbles under control till the time polls were announced. The party so far has not announced its chief ministerial face in Himachal as stalwarts, former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, Union minister Jagat Parkash Nadda and former CM Shanta Kumar made covert attempts to project themselves as party’s face.
In the last elections, BJP lost mainly due to factional fight between Dhumal and Shanta. The party won 26 of 68 member legislative. It faced rebellion in 18 seats and two of the candidates fought Independent.
On the other hand, the Congress is now grappling with intraparty fights and is depending on its old war horse, six-time CM Virbhadra Singh. However, going has been tough for Virbhadra in particular as he is facing cases of graft and disproportionate assets, using which, the BJP has oft targeted him.
Modi too accused Virbhadra Singh for “corruption and misrule” in the state.
Besides, the legal battle, Virbhadra this time faces a challenge within his own party as state party chief Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, ebbed loyalist from Congress and managed to stay on his post in spite Virbhadra’s stiff opposition. The infighting reached a flash point when Virbhadra threatened to stay away from elections and complained to the party high command against functioning of Sukhu.
Virbhadra, 84, a scion of the royal family of Bushar, is also keen to pass on the political legacy to his son, state youth Congress chief Vikramaditya Singh this time.
“Elections in Himachal are crucial from the national point of view. It’s not that the mandate is against state government but the voters will also evaluate the distance between the commitment and achievement of the Prime Minister Narendera Modi-led government . There is huge gap between what he promised and what he delivered.” says Harish Thakur , head of political science at Himachal Pradesh university.
The politics in Himachal has been bi-polar. It’s been twice — in 1977 and 1998 — that a third party unruffled the Congress, where as the power has usually swayed between BJP and Congress. Bahujan Samaj Party forayed into Himachal in a big way in 2008 but only managed to win one seat.
Later its lone legislator Sanjay Chaudhary joined the BJP.
› ...voters will also evaluate the distance between the commitment and achievement of the Prime Minister Narendera Modiled government . There is huge gap between what he promised and what he delivered. HARISH THAKUR, head of political science, Himachal Pradesh University
The Congress won 42.81% of the voteshare in the 2012 assembly polls while the BJP only managed 38.47%.