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BJP, Cong or AAP? Himachal records moderate polls as voters brave the cold to elect a new government

After weeks of intense campaigning and voting, the countdown has begun for D-day (day of results) in Himachal Pradesh, where the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hopes to change the ‘riwaaz’ (tradition) and retain power and Congress has a spirited battle to make a comeback. Despite a good start, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) lost its strength during the campaign, turning it into a two-party battle in the hill state.

Since 1985, the ‘Devbhoomi’ has not repeated any government and elected between the BJP and Congress. Both parties have consistently received about 40% of the stable vote share (except in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls when the Congress’ vote share was reduced to 27 percent). The results have always been neck and neck.

ALSO READ: Who will win the ‘unpredictable’ Himachal Pradesh? News18 Decodes BJP, Congressional Opportunities; Anti-incumbency & more

Main parties

In addition to the BJP, AAP and Congress, there are other parties contesting the polls, including the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Communist Party of India (CPI), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), and the Rashtriya Devbhumi- party (RDP). The BJP, Congress and AAP are fighting on all 68 seats, while CPIM is fighting on 11, CPI 1, BSP 53 and RDP 29.

Voter turnout

More than 55 lakh voters in the state were eligible to decide the fate of 412 candidates in this high-stakes political battle. According to the Election Commission, a turnout of 66 percent was registered in Himachal Pradesh until 5 p.m. The counting of votes will take place on December 8. Turnout in the 2017 polls was 76%.

Voting started slowly at 8am, with an election commission official saying only four percent of the polls were registered until 9am. As the morning progressed it began to clear up and the winter cold eased a bit.

ALSO READ: Will Himachal Change ‘Riwaaz’ This Time? A Look at the Hill State’s ‘Alternate Govt’ Trend

BJP vs Congress

Congress has made a large number of pledges including Rs 1,500 every month to all women under the ‘Har Ghar Lakshmi’ scheme, 300 units of free power and five lakh jobs in the next five years. It has also promised Rs 680 crore StartUp fund. The big old party also tried to use the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) issue during the campaign to win over key employee segments, while also raising the issue of price increases.

The BJP responded with the dual-engine government slogan, hoping to monetize the development projects initiated by the government. The BJP has promised implementation of the Uniform Civil Code and eight lakh jobs in the state, alongside scooties for college girls and bicycles to school girls belonging to weaker sections. The party also hopes to gain support from the important female voter segment.

ALSO READ: ‚ÄčIn 55 years, only 40 women have made it to Himachal Pradesh Assembly: Data | CNN-News18 Analysis

Intensive poll campaign

PM Narendra Modi has led the campaign from the front for the BJP and concluded his recruitment drive with a personal appeal to the voters of the state, saying that every vote cast on the BJP symbol “lotus” will increase its power. It has also asked voters to change the “riwaaz” by re-electing the BJP, saying the “dual engine” regime will continue to work for general development.

BJP President JP Nadda, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Union Ministers Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari, Smriti Irani and Anurag Thakur held a series of polling meetings aside from public outreach.

Before Congress, General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra led the campaign and held several meetings.

ALSO READ: As Priyanka leads the charge, Cong finally seems to get his Himachal campaign going in Rahul’s absence

Political figures and key constituencies

CM Jairam Thakur fights from Seraj against congressional candidate Chetram Thakur. Congress has subpoenaed party leader Mukesh Agnihotri of Haroli’s meeting against BJP’s state spokesman Ram Kumar.

Congressional election campaign and former congressional head of state Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu faces BJP’s Vijay Agnihotri in Nadaun. In Dalhousie, former minister and congress leader Asha Kumari takes on BJP’s DS Thakur and AAP’s Manish Sareen.

Vikramaditya Singh, son of former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, is testing the waters of Shimla Rural again. BJP handled Ravi Mehta and AAP handed the ticket to Prem Thakur from the seat.

Congress seated Harish Janartha in Shimla Urban to face BJP’s ‘chaiwala’ candidate Sanjay Sood and AAP’s Chaman Rakesh Ajta.

Himachal Pradesh Assembly Chairman Vipin Parmar, Congress Leader Jagdish Sapheia and AAP candidate Ravinder Singh are fighting from Sulah. Congerss MLA Rajinder Singh, who defeated former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal in the 2017 elections, is seeking to retain Sujanpur seat, while former BJP chief Satpal Singh Satti is in Una’s poll battle.

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