From the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ‘all guns lateing’ campaign led by its star campaigner PM Narendra Modi, to the Congress banking on anti-incumbency, interspersed with a virtually mute Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the heat of the Himachal polls have virtually cut through the snow peaks of the hill state.
With nearly 56 lakh Himachalis votes on Saturday, the ball is now in their court to decide whether to go for continuity or go beyond “tradition (rivaz)”.
According to the Election Commission, a total of 55.92 lakh voters will determine the fate of 412 candidates, including 38 female candidates for the 68 Assembly segments. The votes will be counted on December 8.
Prominent leaders whose political fortunes are at stake include CM Jai Ram Thakur and his 10 ministers, speaker Vipin Parmar, CLP leader Mukesh Agnihotri and Congress Campaign Committee chairman Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu. Despite a good start, the AAP seems to have lost its strength during the campaign, turning it into a two-party battle for the hill state.
STAR CAMPAIGNER MODES
The high-decibel BJP campaign was led by Prime Minister Modi who addressed election rallies in all major cities of the state.
25 साल का कालखंड बहुत अहम है। के इन वर्षों में हिमाचल में तेज विकास और स्थिर सरकार जरूरी है। मुझे खुशी है कि राज्य के युवा, माताएं-बहनें और सभी लोग इस बात को अच्छी तरह समझ रहे हैं। pic.twitter.com/6JiAGv3T19
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) Nov 5, 2022
The campaign was marked by many personal initiatives by the prime minister – from distributing letters he wrote and signed to every Himachal household to reports that he had called a rebel candidate to stop him from fighting. “He was clearly the face of the campaign. The twin engine slogan clearly had it in the vortex,” admitted one senior leader.
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While top state leaders such as party chairman JP Nadda and union minister Anurag Thakur also campaigned aggressively, it was clear who the party’s ‘vote-catcher’ was. The BJP continued to be hampered by the presence of a large number of rebels in the battle, mainly in the Kullu Mandi region. Mandi is the home district of the Chief Minister.
The BJP could be hurt by ex-MP Kripal Parmar who contested the Fatehpur seat, former MLA of Dharamsala Vipin Nehria, former MLA of Kinnaur Tejwant Negi and Hoshiyar Singh, who won the 2017 Assembly poll as independent from Dehra and joined the BJP joined. He was denied the ticket and fights as an independent. But the party hopes that dropping the number of incumbent MLAs can help overcome the anti-incumbency factor.
Congress also faces a challenge from the rebels. Major Congressional rebels contesting the election include former minister Gangu Ram Musafir of Pachhad, former MLA Subhash Manglet of Chopal and former MLA Jagjivan Pal of Sullah. The party’s campaign was mainly led by local leaders, including state unit head Pratibha Singh, wife of former CM Virbadhra Singh, although some Priyanka Gandhi rallies did boost the campaign. Rahul Gandhi stayed away from the campaign because of the Bharat Jodo Yatra.
During the campaign, Congress tried to use the issue of the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) to win over key employee segments while raising the issue of price hike.
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The BJP responded with the dual-engine government slogan, hoping to monetize the development projects initiated by the government. The party also hopes to gain support from the important female voter segment.
— Congress (@INCIndia) Nov 4, 2022
SNOW A CARE
The BJP had won 44 seats, Congress 21, CPM one and two by the Independents in the 2017 polls. The turnout in the 2017 polls was 76%.
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Bad weather conditions and snowfall in the higher elevations in Lahaul-Spiti are concerns for both the electoral department and the candidates, fearing low turnout. Internal roads are blocked in Lahaul Spiti. The polling stations were trying to find ways to reach the snow-bound areas that were tied to the ballot box.
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