Poll Bu­gle Sounds

BJP has ad­van­tage in Hi­machal Pradesh

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - TIMES NATION -

Elec­tion Com­mis­sion’s de­ci­sion to an­nounce poll dates for Hi­machal Pradesh but not for Gu­jarat has come as a sur­prise. The two states usu­ally go to polls to­gether and by con­ven­tion their dates are an­nounced si­mul­ta­ne­ously. EC has jus­ti­fied its de­ci­sion on the ground that it doesn’t want Gu­jarat to have a long pe­riod un­der the model code of con­duct, es­pe­cially in light of the state gov­ern­ment seek­ing more time for flood re­lief work. Op­po­si­tion par­ties have raised the ques­tion whether the move was meant to give more time to Gu­jarat’s BJP dis­pen­sa­tion to an­nounce sops when Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi vis­its the state next week. One hopes EC hasn’t been pres­sured into stag­ger­ing its poll date an­nounce­ment for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons.

Vot­ing in Hi­machal will be on Novem­ber 9 where the in­cum­bent Congress regime led by chief min­is­ter Virb­hadra Singh is on a weak wicket. Not only is Singh fac­ing a dis­pro­por­tion­ate as­sets case, his gov­ern­ment has to con­tend with sub­stan­tial anti-in­cum­bency on ac­count of fac­tors such as de­te­ri­o­rat­ing law and or­der. Plus, there has been con­sid­er­able in­fight­ing be­tween Singh and Hi­machal Congress pres­i­dent Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu which has af­fected the party’s elec­toral pre­pared­ness. Add to this the fact that Hi­machal usu­ally al­ter­nates be­tween Congress and BJP, and Singh’s prospects of re­main­ing in power don’t look bright.

In the BJP camp, a fac­tional feud be­tween two-time CM Prem Ku­mar Dhu­mal and Union min­is­ter JP Nadda may be brew­ing. It’s pos­si­ble that the party may not de­clare a CM can­di­date and in­stead use Modi as its trump card. This is a strat­egy that works in the Hindis­peak­ing belt, as demon­strated in UP, and should not prove a hand­i­cap. It’s out­side the Hindi belt that BJP must find re­gional faces to front it as Modi’s charisma is likely to yield di­min­ish­ing re­turns.

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