In the electoral history of Himachal Pradesh, after its statehood in 1971, there is a tendency towards anti-incumbency in every assembly election. Himachal Pradesh is again on the verge of state assembly elections which have been set by the electoral commission for November 12, 2022, and its result will be announced on December 8, 2022.
During this election, people are faced with the same question: will the anti-incumbent trend affect the people’s opinion or not? On the other hand, the BJP argues that this time the “dual engine” government will repeat itself and there will be no change of government but a change of trend or tradition.
The BJP reinforces its argument by citing the example of the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand where the trend of anti-incumbency has already been broken by the BJP in the assembly elections of February-March 2022 as Congress is very confident due to the outcome of by-elections in the state in 2021 when all three assembly seats and one parliament seat were won by the Congress party.
Of these seats, the parliamentary seat was from the home district of Jai Ram Thakur, the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh. Undoubtedly, this victory was also influenced by the vote of sympathy in favor of the Congress party due to the disappearance of Virbhadra Singh on July 8, 2021, a popular Congress leader who also remained Chief Minister six times, nine times deputy, four times deputy. , three times Union Minister and four times State Party Leader in Himachal Pradesh.
Election without Veteran-Virbhadra and Dhumal
This election is also significant because both political parties in the state face this election without their veteran. The Congress lost its popular leader to his death last year and the BJP did not give a ticket to Prem Kumar Dhumal in this election. The Himachal Pradesh Congress may have anti-incumbent winds in its sails, but it still feels the absence of a towering local leader to steer its ship to port. Undoubtedly Congress will also try to cash in on the sympathy vote in this election which can be seen in their billboards in which Virbhadra Singh is always featured as a main face and even his wife Pratibha Singh has become the President of the State Congress Party and also plays an important role. role in the campaign. She also won the parliamentary election bye from Mandi seat last year.
Therefore, in the absence of Virbhadra Singh, many Congress leaders are in the running for the State Chief Ministerial candidate, which can create problems for the Congress party. The four main candidates are incumbent MP Pratibha Singh, Himachal Pradesh Assembly Opposition Leader Mukesh Agnihotri, the party’s campaign committee in charge, Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu and a senior official, Kaul Singh Thakur. Therefore, diplomatically, Congress did not declare its leading ministerial candidate before the election, as this could open a Pandora’s box for the outfit.
The BJP is also contesting this election without the name of Prem Kumar Dhumal who twice remained chief minister of Himachal Pradesh. The BJP has already declared its chief ministerial face to outgoing chief minister Jai Ram Thakur this time. But the opposition accuses Jai Ram Thakur of being just a rubber stamp that has always been used by the central government as it sees fit. His policies and decisions remained very fluid during his tenure as Chief Minister. Bureaucracy dominated his maximum decisions. Therefore, for Jai Ram Thakur, this election is also a challenge.
Main factors favoring the Congress:
During the election campaign, Congress party leaders pointed to “unemployment” as a significant problem. Young voters are unhappy with the government because of dwindling job opportunities. Inflation is also a major factor that is seized upon by Congress for its electoral benefits by blaming that instead of a “dual-engine” government, it is a “trouble-engine” government.
Congress also highlights the “police officer paper leak problem in which question papers were sold prior to review by certain people and when this problem was highlighted by the media, the Chief Minister had to cancel the exam and it was redone later. Corruption is also a major voting board for Congress.
BJP state chairman Rajeev Bindal had to resign over health department scam i.e. PPE kits scam exposed by media in 2020, and the problem was highlighted by Congress in this election. The old pension plan (OPS) also becomes a major factor in this election and the Congress announced the restoration of the OPS after the formation of the government.
On the question of OPS, the BJP is still silent and maintains that without the help of the central government, it is not possible. Another attack is against the leadership of Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur. Congress even blames him for failing to bring development to his home district, Mandi, and instead confining himself to Seraj, his constituency. Moreover, he repeatedly proved indecisive – a chief minister with no real control over the bureaucracy.
Another factor regarding the request for establishment of “Sawaran Ayog” may also help the Congress this time. Rumit Singh Thakur and his followers were calling for a ‘Sawaran Ayog’ and when they were not happy with the government they formed a new political party in the state named ‘Rashtriya Devbhumi Party’ which is not so popular during this election but it will shake the BJP instead of the Congress.
Main factors favoring the BJP:
The main factor favoring the BJP is the leadership of its national level, especially the “Modi factor”. Under the leadership of Narender Modi, the BJP wins its peak parliamentary elections after 2014 and in Himachal Pradesh they also hope for the same this time.
JP Nadda, national president of the BJP, originating from Himachal Pradesh, can also contribute to the ballot in favor of the BJP. Naraender Modi, JP Nadda, Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh, Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Pushkar Singh Dhamie, etc. are in the list of star activists and they enthusiastically address various campaign rallies in Himachal Pradesh.
During their campaign, most of the leaders show the success of the BJP government at the central level as well as at the state level. They make the argument that if there will be a “dual engine” government, then only more development will be possible in the state. Some major projects entrusted to Himachal Pradesh in the past five years are such as establishment of ‘AIIMS’ in Bilaspur district, ‘Bulk Drug Pharma Park’ in Una district, Medical Device Park in Nalagarh (district from Solan), ‘Vande Bharat Train’ (Between Una to Delhi) etc.
Achievements based on the state are like reducing the age of “old age pension” from 80 to 60, “Him Care Yojana” in which 5 lakh of health care is given to people, “Sahara Yojana” in which disabled people receive a pension of Rs 3000, ‘Shagun Yojana’ in which daughters of BPL families receive Rs 31,000 cash from the state government upon marriage, ‘Ujjawala Yojana’ etc.
During the election campaign, BJP leaders also attract the people by showing central government achievements such as revoking Article 370, “PM Kisan Yojana”, building Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, surgical strike, etc. .
Congress Vs BJP: Rebel Impact
The rebels can undoubtedly skew the electoral mathematics in Himachal Pradesh in this election. After the distribution of the tickets, the rebel factor carries both the outgoing BJP and the opposition Congress, and the top leaders of both parties are working very hard to mitigate the impact of the discontent of the rebel leaders.
A dozen rebels will haunt the candidates for Congress. A wise constituency list of Congress rebels is as follows – Theog (Vijay Pal Khachi and Indu Verma against official candidate Kuldeep Singh Rathore), Chopal (Subhash Chand Manglate), Arki (Rajinder Thakur), Hamirpur (Ashish Sharma), Pachhad (Ganguram Musafir), Joginder Nagar (Sanjeev Bhandari), Jaswan Pragpur (Mukesh Thakur), Chintpurni (Kuldeep Kumar), Sulah (Jagjiwan Pal), Anni (Paras Ram), Chamba (Indira Kapoor) constituencies etc. The BJP is also troubled by rebels in Nachan (Gian Chand), Mandi Sader (Praveen Kumar Sharma), Indora (Manohar Dhiman), Sundernagar (Abhishek Thakur), Anni (Kishori Lal), Rohru (Rajinder Dhirta), Kinnaur (Tejwant Singh), Fatepur (Kripal Parmar), Nalagarh (KL Thakur), Kullu (Ram Singh), Dehra (Hoshyar Singh), Banjar (Hiteshwar Singh), Chamba, Dharmshala (Vipin Nahriya), Jhanduta (Raj Kumar Kaundal), Badsar ( Sanjeev Kumar), Bilaspur (Subhash Sharma) etc. .
Compared to the Congress, the BJP faces more rebels in this election. It will be interesting to see the loss and benefit of these rebels for and against others.
The aspirations of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to reap electoral benefits in Himachal Pradesh have been sparked by this year’s significant victory in the Punjab Assembly elections. However, the party’s hopes of climbing the mountain and becoming a reliable rival to the BJP and Congress appear to have crumbled long before his campaign. Undoubtedly, their candidates are running for office in every constituency but do not seem to win a single seat. Therefore, in this election, there is a neck and neck fight between the Congress and the BJP.
The article is authored by Dr. Sunil Kumar, Lecturer in Political Science, DPS, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, he is also associated with research organization Peoples Pulse in Hyderabad.