Thursday, March 30, 2023
HomePoliticsHimachal Pradesh Elections 2017Big test for BJP as Himachal goes to polls today

Big test for BJP as Himachal goes to polls today

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50 lakh electorate to cast votes to choose between six-time CM Virbhadra Singh of Congress and septuagenarian BJP leader, Prem Kumar Dhumal.

Chandigarh: Himachal Pradesh votes to elect a new assembly Thursday, the first electoral contest that is expected to test the popularity of the BJP in the aftermath of the implementation of the contentious Goods and Services Tax and a general economic slowdown.

The Congress led by six-time chief minister Virbhadra Singh (83) is eyeing yet another term in a bid to create history while the BJP led by two-times CM Prem Kumar Dhumal (73) ishoping to wrest power back.

Winning these elections is vital for the BJP as this is the party’s first electoral battle after it implemented the GST in July. Voting, incidentally, will take place a day after the demonetisation ‘anniversary’ which the BJP marked as anti-black money day while opposition parties staged protests.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed seven rallies in the state over three days in support of BJP candidates. Party chief Amit Shah remained stationed in the state for almost a weekand the BJP’s campaign focused primarily on the corruption charges against CM Virbhadra Singh.

Infographic: Neera Majumdar/ThePrint

Modi also talked about demonetisation promising action against hoarders and benamiproperty holders as the next step in the war against black money. He wooed ex-servicemen, who constitute a substantial part of the population in Himachal, taking credit for the implementation of ‘one rank one pension’ (OROP). Modi, however, made no mention of the implementation of GST.

The Congress campaign led mainly by state leaders focused on its achievements in the past five years in giving jobs, opening schools and universities and construction of roads. Party vice-president Rahul Gandhi had addressed three rallies Monday and took on Modi over demonetisation and GST, saying that the two economic reforms had caused unprecedented harm to the common man and small and marginal traders. He also questioned the BJP over its unfulfilled promise of creating 2 crore jobs.

Elections were announced on 13 October but the Congress campaign began early with the announcement of Virbhadra Singh as the party’s chief minister candidate on 7 October.Although hit by severe infighting, the party is seen to have put up a spirited campaign. The party tried to quell dissent at several places following the announcement of tickets. However, there are at least half a dozen Congress rebels in the fray.

The BJP changed its plans of not announcing a CM candidate midway during the campaignby announcing the name of Dhumal, a move analysts says boosted its campaign and enthused its workers. The party also managed to rein in any possible protest from supporters of union minister J.P. Naddah, who was also among the contenders for the CM post, as also former CM Shanta Kumar who seemed upset over distribution of tickets.

Himachal Pradesh has more than 50 lakh eligible voters to elect its 68-seat legislative assembly. In most seats, traditional rivals Congress and the BJP are locked in straight contests. Power in the tiny hill state has been alternating between the two since 1977.

Electoral contests in Himachal have always been keen and many seats witness tight contests and every vote matters. Over the past three elections, the difference of overall winning votes between the two main parties has been an average of 1.5 lakh votes. In 2012, Congress secured almost 43 per cent of the vote share and BJP 38.5 per cent. In 2007, the BJP got almost 44 per cent of the votes while Congress secured 39 per cent.


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