On Saturday, more than 550,000 voters in the hill state will decide the fate of 412 candidates, including prime minister Jairam Thakur, son of former CM Virbhadhra Singh Vikramaditya Singh and former BJP chief Satpal Singh Satti, in the election. nominate a 68-member parliament. .
The ruling BJP hopes to repeat the feat of 2017 and counter the general trend of the state to remove incumbents. The state has a four-decade history of voting out of the ruling party. However, Congress is calling on voters to stick to tradition and vote for a change.
On the eve of the poll, both the BJP and Congress announced they were aiming for a majority and would form a government.
Meanwhile, unlike previous elections, the participation of AAP have somewhat questioned the pitch for both sides. Though it remains to be seen whether AAP’s debut is a no-brainer or an end-game that hurts the BJP or Congress’s exploratory prospects.
Prestige and existence
For the BJP and Congress, the Himachal Pradesh results will have very different meanings.
The BJP, which retained all four states that went to the polls earlier this year, a victory in Himachal would only strengthen its position as a dominant political force.
Another victory in Himachal will come like a feather in the hat of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has coined the slogan “support the incumbent” in the party scene.
Earlier, BJP director JP Nadda told PTI news agency that the party has emerged as a trend-setting force with people choosing to re-elect incumbent governments and prefer it to other parties where the BJP does not. power.
Plus, it will boost the BJP’s chances in nine state elections next year, including the important Hindi-centric states of Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, and then in the general election in 2024.
Meanwhile, for the National Assembly, which has been on electoral decline since the last two election cycles, winning Himachal Pradesh from the BJP is a matter of survival.
The stakes are even higher for the big old party that installed Mallikarjun Kharge, its first non-Gandhi Congress president in 24 years, with former leader Rahul Gandhi causing the campaign round to be completely missed. .
Parliament has lost in nine states in two years including West Bengal, Kerala, Assam, Puducherry in 2021 and Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur this year.
Currenlty, it took power on its own only in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.
Will AAP play spoilsport?
The Aam Aadmi Party will see itself as the third political force in the state after a clear victory in Punjab and well-deserved achievements in Goa.
It is also conducting elections in Gujarat, which will be held on 1 and 5 December.
However, unlike Gujarat, where the AAP has been actively campaigning for weeks, the party led by Arvind Kejriwal has been running a rather quiet campaign in Himachal Pradesh.
So going into the polls, the direct contest between the BJP and the Congress is in line with past trends.
However, as the AAP is competing for all 68 seats, it will hopefully reduce the poll outlook of both the BJP and Congress.
Punjab Minister Harjot Singh Bains, who is in charge of AAP’s Himachal Pradesh, expressed confidence that his party will make a difference in the state.
Campaign: BJP charges against ‘spiritual’ Congress
Although some polls predict that Congress could give the BJP an uphill battle in the state, the big old party has run a pretty tight campaign in the run-up to the polls. .
The opposition parliament relies heavily on secretary-general Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to campaign. Former Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has stayed away from the prison camps run by his multistate Bharat Jodo Yatra.
Parliament senior leader Anand Sharma noted that his party’s Himachal campaign planning could be “much better” with the deployment of senior leaders, and meant that the he is not fully utilized. However, he said that Priyanka has led a spirited campaign in the state.
Sharma was one of the prominent members of a group of 23 leaders who wrote to Sonia Gandhi in 2020 seeking large-scale reforms. He resigned as chairman of the party’s steering committee for Himachal, reportedly not being consulted on the planning of council elections.
On the other hand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the BJP’s election campaign from the front, ending his campaign with a personal appeal to the voters of the state, where he said that every vote votes for a representative. The “lotus” BJP statue will enhance his strength.
BJP President JP Nadda, Home Minister Amit Shah and Minister Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath also held a series of polling meetings in addition to the public outreach for the saffron party.
The BJP has consciously worked to appeal to the state’s key female voters, who have outnumbered their male counterparts in all elections since 1998.
The party also released a manifesto of independence for women in an attempt to appeal to them, promising 33% to take on government jobs, new educational institutions and various organizations for different segments. different track.
It also promises eighty thousand jobs for people in the state.
In addition, Union Home Minister Amit Shah has promised to implement the Uniform Civil Code when the party comes to power.
Meanwhile, Parliament has promised to restore the old pension scheme, 300 units of free electricity and a StartUp fund of Rs 680.
Congress hopes that the promise to bring back the old pension system, which the BJP government has abolished, will be a game changer in the November 12 election. Even Priyanka, sought to corner the BJP on the issue and voiced support for the plan.
Star candidate and schedule
Minister Jairam Thakur is competing from Seraj in Mandi while former BJP chief Satti is trying his luck from Una.
Urban Development Minister Suresh Bhardwaj is competing from Kasumpti, Parliamentary CLP leader Mukesh Agnihotri from Haroli, former minister Virbhadra Singhson of Vikramaditya Singh from Rural Shimla, former HPCC director and Campaign Committee chief Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu from Nadaun and Parliamentary Manifesto Committee chief Dhani Ram Shandil in Solan.
Voting is scheduled from 8am to 5pm.
The Election Commission has set up a total of 7,884 polling stations including three secondary polling stations in remote areas. Of these, there are 789 vulnerable stalls and 397 endangered stalls.
The EC has also set up its tallest booth at Tashigang in Kaza in the Spiti area of the state’s Lahaul Spiti district at 15,256 feet and will cater to 52 voters.
BJP Bank on Modi
- Strength: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, first and foremost. Himachal Pradesh has a history of not returning an incumbent to office and the BJP’s hopes of reversing that trend rest with Modi to a large extent. The party can also count on its organizational apparatus to deliver while the mayhem in the Congress will work in its favor.
- Weaknesses: Overdependence on Modi can backfire and opposition to the government is a real threat. In an online survey by a research group based in Shimla, 72.6% of respondents said the BJP will face resistance. Former CMs Prem Kumar Dhumal and Shanta Kumar are also not as active as before due to their advanced age.
- Chances: The clean image of Minister Jai Ram Thakur will provide the BJP with a trustworthy face to vote on. AAP’s accession would mean three-way contests in several seats and the party could win Congressional votes, in favor of the BJP.
- Threats: The biggest threat is that Himachal Pradesh is doing what it has always done – voting for incumbents. Additionally, Congress has accused the BJP of driving the state to financial ruin, and if it finds resonance with everyone, the fight is likely to be uphill.
- Strength: It is difficult to distinguish at this point but the state remains one of the few places where the party still has real structure and support. The state unit is led by Pratibha Singh, widow of CM Virbhadra Singh, who can rally the party now that the poll date has been announced.
- Weaknesses: The general drift in the National Congress did not affect the state unit. The lack of energy is evident while the role of senior leader Anand Sharma is rising. How the state leadership on the second ladder overcomes the challenge will be key.
- Chances: After a near-miss in Uttarakhand that was predicted to be won, Himachal gave the Congress a golden opportunity to take a state from the BJP. Even so, AAP’s entry is still essentially a two-horse race, and Congress will take heart from the state’s voting tradition. In addition, it has soared after winning elections for the Mandi parliamentary seat along with the council seats of Arki, Jubbal-Kotkhai and Fatehpur last year.
- Threats: AAP is an unspecified amount that could skew Congress’ plans. If the new member takes away a large portion of its vote, as it has done in other states, that party could lose. BJP can be expected to throw everything into the campaign and won’t give up easily. Any subject to ticket distribution can cause death.
(With input from PTI)