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Sringeri
Sunday, January 29, 2023

The stakes are high in poll bound Himachal

Himachal may be a tiny state in terms of assembly and lok sabha numbers but as it goes to the polls in three weeks time some big reputations are at stake for the incumbent government. 

The BJP national  President  hails from Himachal and would like the state in his and his party’s  kitty more than anyone else. PM Modi has been rallying in Himachal and has called Himachal his second home. Anurag Thakur the 4 time MP from hamirpur and the current  I&B and sports minister is from Himachal. So the stakes are high for both the high command & the state leadership to win the hill state.

The poll bugles have been sounded by both the parties with PM Modi doing a whirlwind tour of the State inaugurating big infrastructure  push inaugurating the new AIIMS facility in  Nadda’s home district Bilaspur, launching Vande Bharat from Una and  Priyanka Gandhi addressing  a rally in solan. 

The stakes are high for both the parties  but particularly  so the BJP which has a lot of  national heavyweights from the state including BJP national president  JP Nadda & I&B and sports minister Anurag Thakur. The onus would  be on these stalwarts apart from the present  CM jai ram thakur to beat the anti incumbency factor and win the election for the BJP. 

But for that to happen they will have to rewrite  history  as no government  has repeated itself in over three decades of state politics including that of 6 time CM late Mr Virbhadra Singh and his once bete noire Prem kumar Dhumal who remained the CM of the State twice. 

The last time the two parties sparred against each other was in 2021 when the Congress  got the better of the ruling party in the crucial  Mandi lok sabha seat and the 3 assembly constituencies of Jubbal kotkhai, Fatehpur & Arki. 

The bypolls are generally  a precursor to judge the mood of the voter in the state by pollsters & political  pundits but infighting in the Congress coupled with too many CM aspirants could be a roadblock as the Party endeavours to regain  power in the State.

The Mandi lok sabha seat had been with the BJP since 2014 and the loss was significant  as the current CM hails from Mandi . Moreover  the Mandi parliamentary constituency comprises of 17 assembly  segments stretching across 5 districts  of kullu, Kinnaur, Mandi, lahaul spiti & Shimla. 

In a major rejig in seat allotment the BJP has denied tickets  to 11 sitting MLA’S changed seats of 2 sitting ministers (Suresh Bhardwaj & Rakesh Pathania) and denied  ticket to a cabinet minister (Mahinder Singh) preferring his son instead which has led to the cabinet ministers  daughter revolting against  the father son duo and the party for being denied the ticket.

Will the shuffling of seats & bringing in new faces help the BJP only time will tell but the battle lines are clearly drawn between  the 2 main parties of the state in what could be a close contest for gaining majority in the 68 member assembly. AAP which won the assembly  elections  in neighbouring  Punjab recently could just be a fringe player in the absence of any organizational support in the State with pockets of some influence  in a few places adjoining  Punjab.

In the last elections  in 2017 the BJP won 44 seats with  a 48.8% vote share beating the Congress  which could  win only 21 seats but surprisingly  got 41.7% of the vote share which was just 1.1% lower than it’s  2012 vote share of 42.81% when it won a majority  with  36 seats. On the other hand the BJP’s  vote share saw a more than 10% jump from 38.47% in 2012 to 48.8% in 2017 which translated into the party winning 18 more seats as compared to 2012. 

The states voter turnout  was also the highest recorded in the last election of 2017 with 74.61% as compared to the previous  best of 74.51% in 2003. With the elections being held a month earlier and before the onset of the winter chill  the voter turnout is expected  to be high again but  the mind of the voter will only be revealed on 8th of december. Till then the parties  have to battle it out at the hustings till the polling day .

(The story has been published via a syndicated feed.)

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Aman Gupta
Aman Gupta
Political Editor, Samast Bharat magazine

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