Voting will take place on 9th of November in Himachal Pradesh to elect a new Assembly. The fight is between the two traditional rivals, BJP and Congress, as usual. Like Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, the elections are fought only between two national parties. When BSP was at its zenith, it used to get some votes, but it could not make the fight triangular in any election. BSP basks on Dalit votes and Himachal Pradesh has around 25 percent of its voters as Scheduled Caste. The population of Scheduled Tribe is 4 percent. Thus, BSP had opportunities to get a strong foothold in the state, but it failed.
For the last many elections, a pattern has emerged where BJP and Congress alternate in getting majority of the assembly seats. In 2012, Congress has emerged victorious and it had formed its government replacing BJP. Out of 68 Assembly seats, 38 were bagged by Congress and BJP could get only 26 seats. BJP had a better chance to win the election, but it was marred by factionalism and it also experience split just before the elections and it had to bite the dust. Virbhadra Singh of Congress became Chief Minister for record 5th time in 2012.
Congress is again fighting the election under the leadership of Virbhadra Singh. He has been projected for Chief Ministerial post, if the party wins again. Mr Singh is 84 years old and Rahul Gandhi wanted a new face, however, Mr Singh did not wanted to retire. In addition, his clout in the state has been proven fact and he has been again projected again as the Chief Ministerial candidate of Congress.
Virbhadra Singh has been chargesheeted in a corruption case and BJP is trying to nail the Congress on this issue. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had highlighted the issue of corruption reminding people that Virbhadra government was a government on bail. He had reminded them of the case pending against Rahul and Sonia as well. Interestingly the state President of Congress is also facing a case and he is also on bail. All these gave BJP to make corruption as a major election plank to win the election.
However, this plank may not click in the campaign for the simple reason that even the state leaders of BJP are embroiled in corruption charges. During last government, when Prem Kumar Dhumal of BJP was Chief Minister, he was also facing corruption charges. His son Anurag Thakur was also allegedly involved in those charges. Now Anurag Thakur is a Minister in Modi government. Hence, there was no buyer of corruption charges against Virbhadra Singh and Congress in Himachal Pradesh election.
BJP realised the futility of raising corruption charges and changed its strategy by declaring its own Chief Ministerial face in the election. Earlier it had decided not to name its candidate, but after the passage of five days of campaigning, it had announced Prem Kumar Dhumal. Since he was also facing corruption charges, BJP has almost dumped this issue to win the election.
Why was BJP forced to announce its Chief Ministerial candidate? The reason is caste factor in the state. Thakurs are numerically strong position in the state and Virbhadra Singh hails from this community. He is fighting his last Assembly election and creating sympathy waves for him among the voters and particularly his caste men. Prem Kumar Dhumal also belongs to Thakur community. The talk in Himachal Pradesh was that if BJP won, JP Nadda would be made CM of the state. This was propelling Thakurs to be pushed behind Congress. To counter it BJP had to make it clear that it would make Prem Kumar Dhumal next CM, if it wins the election.
Though, there is no anti incumbency against Virbhadra Singh and Congress in the state, BJP is sitting pretty because of its unity. Last time, it lost because of spits and factionalism. This time it is fighting as a united party. Though fight is tough and victory margin will be small, we can say that BJP is in advantageous position.
– Contributed by Kriti
Picture Credits: india.com