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

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - - NATION - Gau­rav Bisht gau­rav.bisht@hin­dus­tan­times.com

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

HT FILE

The Con­gress won 42.81% of the vote­share in the 2012 as­sem­bly polls while the BJP only man­aged 38.47%.

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