The Congress citadel in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh seems set for a collapse as the state goes to the Vidhan Sabha elections on November 9.
The 68-member Vidhan Sabha, at present, has 36 Congress members and 26 from the BJP. The anti-incumbency against the six-time Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has been building ever since the CBI registered a corruption case against him and his family members in 2015.
The chief minister and his wife, Pratibha Singh, have since been on bail. The case against the chief minister pertains to amassing disproportionate assets during his term as a Union Minister during the UPA rule.
Incidentally, earlier he had to quit as a Union Minister following corruption charges levelled against him by a senior political leader VS Mankotia. However, Virbhadra Singh was acquitted just before the last Vidhan Sabha elections in 2012 that enabled him to contest the elections. At that stage, the corruption charges against him did not dent his image because they were apparently politically-motivated.
This time around, however, since the charges have been documented and framed pithily by the CBI, the blot seems to have stuck the veteran Congress leader who would be
fighting with his back against the wall this time.
The Congress suffered a set back when the nomination papers of senior leader Vidya Stokes were rejected from the Theog Vidhan Sabha constituency.
The returning officer observed that the papers had been rejected because she was technically not the official candidate of the party. Stokes had filed papers at the last minute after the party had cleared the nomination of Deepak Rathore.
As Rathore was the first one to file papers as a Congress nominee, his candidature was upheld, while that of Stokes was struck down.
Realising the crisis the party was sailing through, the Congress high commmand for the first time in recent years made an amendment in its long-held principle of one family one seat. While the Chief Minister’s son, Vikramaditya, was alloted the Shimla Rural Vidhan Sabha seat, senior leader Kaul Singh’s daughter Champa Thakur was given the party ticket from the Mandi Sadar seat.
The upbeat BJP has already received overwhelmingly favourable results from various pre-election surveys for which the tone was set way back in 2014 Lok Sabha elections itself when the BJP won all the four Lok Sabha seats in the state and the Congress drew a poor blank.
Senior party leaders like three-time Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and Union Minister JP Nadda would be spearheading the campaign which would be given an aggressive thrust by senior party leaders like BJP president Amit Shah, Sushma Swaraj, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also expected to address a few rallies in the run-up.
The BJP’s performance at the Centre in bringing about economic reforms and taking development to the last village would be the among the main election planks that the state BJP leaders would be harping on.
Once again it is the charisma of the Prime Minister which is expected to sway the results in favour of the party, besides, of course, the anti-incumbency against the Congress government.
While the term of the present House comes to an end on January 9, 2018, the Election Commisssion has already clarified that it announced the date for the state Vidhan Sabha election taking factors like weather into consideration. There are indications that higher reaches of the state might start getting snowfall after mid-November.
A sizeable number of Tibetan voters, concentrated largely around Dharmashala, has been a new pocket that the politicians have been eyeing at. While the Tibetans are considered refugees for all practical purposes, they have started entrenching themselves firmly in the region.
After the Centre allowed that those born between 1950 and 1987 have a right to vote in the Indian elections, they have been taking an avid interest in the local issues and trying to influence the local leaders.
Incidentally, for them, Dharamshala is a make-shift capital of the Central Tibetan Administration as well.
At a height of 13,000 ft above sea level, Hikkam in Lahaul Spiti district is the highest polling station in Himachal Pradesh which has 46 voters.
Interestingly, Kaa polling station in Kinnuar has only six voters.
– In all about 50 lakh voters would be taking part in the Vidhan Sabha elections casting their votes at as many as 7,521 polling stations of which 51 have been declared critical.
– Women would be manning 136 polling stations.
– The highest number of voters at 92,753 is in the Kasauli segment in Solan district while the
lowest number of voters, 22,849, is in the Lahul Spiti assembly segment.