Poll Bugle Sounds
BJP has advantage in Himachal Pradesh
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.