Congress Faces A Tough Electoral Battle In Himachal
NEW DELHI: The battle lines have been drawn clearly and decisively. The elections to the Himachal Pradesh Assembly are being termed as prestigious for both BJP and Congress and they are leaving no stone unturned to make it a war of nerves.
While opinion polls giving a clear edge to BJP in wresting power in the Congress ruled state, the Congress party campaign, mainly led by Chief Minister, Virbhadra Singh, is not giving up so easily and it plans to take the fight till the end. In fact, with Prime Minister, Narendra Modi is leading the BJP campaign in the state but the Congress party is still to decide about is star campaigners. However, the contest in the state is being a direct fight between a beleaguered Chief Minister, who is facing corruption charges and the Prime Minister. Mr. Modi has already hinted that focus of his campaign would be corruption charges against the Chief Minister and his family members.
The BJP is all set to unleash its high-powered campaign under Mr. Modi and has decided to field Union Minister, Raj Nath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Nitin Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj, Jagat Prakash Nadda, Thawar Chand Gehlot, Smriti Irani, Uma Bharti, Vijay Sampla and V.K. Singh as main speakers for the November 9 polls. Prominent local leaders are former Chief Ministers, Shanta Kumar and Prem Kumar Dhumal, Hamirpur MP, Anurag Thakur, national BJP spokesperson, Sambit Patra who will descend on the state.
Sources in the BJP said that Prime Minister would hold four rallies in all the four parliamentary constituencies of the State in support of the party candidates. Mr. Modi’s schedule is being worked out along with that of party president, Mr. Amit Shah who will undertake an extensive tour of the state. One of the reasons being cited for Mr. Modi to address a rally at Shimla is that Mr. Virbhdara Singh’s son, Vikramaditya Singh is contesting from Shimla rural constituency, which was earlier represented in the assembly by his father who has now shifted to Arki assembly segment.
BJP chief ministers led by Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Manohar Lal Khattar of Haryana, Yogi Adityanath of Uttar Pradesh, Raman Singh Chhattisgarh are among those who are expected to campaign in the state.
For the Congress, the main campaigner is Mr Singh himself who is leading from the front. Mr. Singh is also the chairman of the campaign committee of the party and is at loggerheads with the State Congress president, Thakur Sukhvinder Singh who is now contesting from Nadaun Assembly constituency. Congress vice-president, Rahul Gandhi during his October 7 rally at Mandi, had announced that Mr. Singh will be the Chief Minister of the State if Congress comes back to power.
However, BJP has refused to be drawn into the controversy of the Chief Minister candidate and has decided to go into the polls without a Chief Minister face. Although, Mr. Dhumal is contesting from Sujanpur assembly segment, the party has refused to back him or name him as the Chief Minister candidate raising speculation about the race being open. The other important contender for the post is Union Health Minister, J. P Nadda who has maintained a low profile and is quietly campaigning in the state.
The Congress has already suffered a setback as the nomination papers of its senior leader and Minister in the Virbhadra Singh Government, Vidya Stokes have been rejected from the Theog assembly segment showing the party in poor light. The party has also faced rebellion within the ranks as Mr. Singh’s loyalist, Harish Janartha, who was denied the party ticket from Shimla constituency, deciding to contest independently.
The BJP is no less impacted by the infighting. Party leaders including Mr. Shanta Kumar and Mr. Nadda have joined hands against Mr. Dhumal and have managed to get their loyalists party tickets. Despite repeated pleas by the party workers and leaders at the local level to declare a Chief Minister face, the BJP high command has refused to give in. In fact, this time it is very clear in the BJP campaign that there are only two leaders who matter – Mr. Modi and Mr. Shah.