Election 2017

Will Himachal voters prefer ‘Prem’ over ‘Vir.’

November 18, 2017 10:22 AM

Punjab News Express/Y.S.Rana
CHANDIGARH: Voters in the Himachal Assembly election have performed their duty well. Though the counting far away yet both the parties—BJP and Congress- begin to stake their claim to form the next government in Himachal Pradesh, the ultimate for which would be known only on December 18 as to which way the wind blows. With political crystal gazers predicting close finish which could swing either way on December 18 when the counting of votes polled in the Himachal Pradesh Assembly is taken up, the two parties are keenly engaged in doing anticipatory number crunching.

But it is yet to see whether the voters will repose ‘Prem’ in Dhumal or can go with the ‘Vir’ be able to save the crumbling fort? Before the Assembly elections, the story was different. Both BJP and Congress exuded confidence of getting a clean majority in the House. But, of late, they have become apprehensive of achieving the goal for them. They feel that rebels can rob official candidates of victory in as many as 10 assembly segments which may make or mar the prospects of either side. Senior congress leaders felt that infighting within the Congress and rebels could queer the pitch for the party.

Most exit polls have given the BJP an edge in Himachal Pradesh but the Congress may be within the striking distance for government formation. Like last assembly election, the state Congress is not passing through a leadership crisis this time. It is to be or not to be Virbhadra Singh as chief minister depends on whether the voters prefer ‘Prem’ over ‘Vir.’  

It is said that whosoever wins the Kangra Fort wins the battle of Shimla. It has been the deciding factor in the formation of government. It has 15 assembly seats of the 68. In 1990 when the BJP formed the government won 13 seats out of 16 while in 1993 the Congress formed the government when it won 12 seats from the district. While in 1998 the BJP has succeeded in forming the government but in 2003, the Congress won the Kangra Fort walked away with 11 assembly seats from here and formed the government.  

The BJP wrested back a lot of lost ground in the district in 2007, on its way to grab power but lost it again in 2012 to the Congress.  The problem with the Congress is that ‘Vir’ has not allowed anyone to be chief minister. Former HPCC chief Sat Mahajan who was the tallest Congress leader in the district but he failed to make to head the government. Now the Congress with no towering leader left to head the party in lower areas of the State, it is in a piquant situation. It made rather difficult to regain lost ground for the Congress .

Corruption has lost its sheen and voters are contended to live with it. In an analysis, the Congress has the highest number of ‘crorepati’ candidates while the BJP has most with criminal cases against them. It states that 59 out of 68 candidates (87 per cent) belong to the Congress while in terms of candidates with criminal records the BJP tops the list with 23 of the 68 (34 per cent) having criminal records. Are they wanted by the voters this time ? Political parties that cry hoarse about corruption during campaigning, when these attain power, the issue is quietly buried.

This time, the Congress woes pile up in Kangra as it has to make a journey from angry voters to confused workers. When people in the district were asked what they thought of corruption besides law and order, the answers ranged from accusations of greed to show of anger.  On the other, the only star campaigner-Virbhadra Singh- himself accused of corruption charges might not be able to use his optimum vigour this time. Congress needed, this time, far more than Virbhadra’s helmmanship to save the crumbling fort.    

The tenacity, mobilizing capacity and tactical skills of the BJP which in recent past has determinedly put its house in order may overtake mathematically its rival Congress. Now as the winter sun downs low over the green hills of the state with grey spots, the Mimalyan trap may appear more than a geography lesson for both the parties. A defeat in the recent held assembly elections may rock Congress confidence in its effort to gain power at the Centre.  Out there, beyond the Shimla Tunnel, there is a mountain of anger.

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