Himachal Pradesh to vote on Nov. 12; BJP faces uphill task

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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, October 14: The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar on Friday announced the date for the Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections, while staying the course to delink Gujarat polls from the hilly state. Himachal Pradesh would vote on November 12 in a single phase election, and the counting of votes would take place on December 8, said Kumar.

The CEC also stated that the duration for the model code of conduct has been cut down from 70 days to 57 to allow the return of the normal governance. Kumar has also justified not declaring the dates for the Gujarat Assembly elections, saying that the Election Commission is following the precedence. The last elections were also held separately in the two states.

Kumar told reporters that the upper parts of Himachal Pradesh may get harsh Winter which weighed on the Commission while deciding the poll date for the hilly state.

Himachal Pradesh has never repeated a government since 1985. The state is notorious for voting out the incumbent government after five years. The people in the state maintain that the tradition of voting out the incumbent government keeps political parties on toes that they have to work hard, while also acting as an incentive for the Opposition party to work sincerely in its role.

Late Virbhadra Singh had led Congress to repeat its government in the 1985 state Assembly elections. Afterwards, the BJP and Congress have been sharing power every five years. The incumbent Chief Minister Jairam Thakur has been backed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, helping him to complete his full term, despite rank factionalism in the state unit of the BJP.

Incidentally, the appeal of the local leaders is seen to weigh high among the voters in Himachal Pradesh, which had led to the defeat of former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal in the last elections after he had changed his constituency to Sujanpur by a rookie politician Rajinder Rana. Dhumal was seen to have worked for improving the road connectivity in the state, and yet he lost the poll, because the voters in Sujanpur favoured Rana for being more accessible.

Modi will be the main mascot for the BJP since the party is without a charismatic leader in Himachal Pradesh, as the likes of JP Nadda, the party chief, Anurag Thakur, Union Minister, and Thakur aren’t seen to have popularity across the state. The BJP will be counting on the ‘muscular nationalism’ of Modi to beat the electoral record of the state and retain power on the lines of Uttarakhand.

However, the BJP will be without the benefit of the division of votes, as Himachal Pradesh political is all about a bipolar politics, with no scope for the third party or even independents. This may work in favour of Congress as the party still has its cadre intact in the state unlike other states.

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