(From Left) Former Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh. (Photos: SNS)
Its Congress Chief Minister, Virbhadra Singh versus Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Himachal Pradesh as the hill state goes to 2017 Assembly polls on 9 November.
The BJP campaigned aggressively with Prime Minister Modi and central ministers pitching in to back up two-time CM AND party’s face in Himachal, Prem Kumar Dhumal, 73 over last week.
The party banked on personalised attack on Himachal CM on corruption charges, urged the people to give ‘double engine’ to BJP in centre and state, while trying to push issues like ‘GST and price rise’ and the overshadowing ‘Modi factor back.
In Congress, six-time CM, Singh, 83, was visibly the ‘one man army’ of Congress in poll campaign in Himachal, with Congress Vice President, Rahul Gandhi and Punjab CM, Captain Amarinder Singh turning up in the last two-days.
Singh electioneered in the entire state with development agenda on the fore, as he also tried to strike the emotional chord.
“You all know that the BJP led central government has left no stone unturned to victimise me and my family in three years of their rule. Still, I burnt mid night oil for overall development of Himachal. You have always supported me. This is the last election of my political career. I seek your support,” Singh mentioned in his public meetings.
The state has seen Congress and BJP coming to power alternatively every five years in the absence of third option.
In 2012, the Congress had wrested power in Himachal by winning 36 Assembly seats, pushing BJP to 26 seats. One seat had gone to Himachal Lokhit Party (HLP), which merged with BJP later, and five to independents.
While ‘pysche’ of change gave a natural advantage to BJP to begin with this time, the party initially tripped in the electoral strategy and chose to go with Modi face—to counter the Congress CM face, Virbhadra Singh. However, with just eight days to go for polls, the BJP suddenly declared former BJP CM, Dhumal as its leader in Himachal to cash in on his popularity across Himachal Pradesh.
“The non-performance of government, large scale corruption and unemployment are the main issues against Congress government. The people will bring BJP back in power overwhelmingly,” said State BJP Vice President, Ganesh Dutt.
He said the GST and price rise may have some impact, but not much, as the central has now committed to review.
The ruling Congress put much thrust on Virbhadra’s popularity and snowballed the central issues like GST, demonetisation and price rise, describing it as a failure of central government.