Himachal is all set to go for polls on 9th of November. There is an interesting battle going on between the BJP and the Congress. The contest has been bipolar for decades in the state and this time its no different. While BJP has put its star campaigner Prime Minister Modi into the campaign, Congress top leadership is conspicuous by its absence (Rahul made a pitch only in the last leg of the campaign).
It has left it to current CM Virbhadra Singh to fend for himself. To recall, CBI and ED have filed money laundering cases against Virbhadra and his family members and is investigating his Benami properties. Modi has already declared a one-sided contest and chided Gandhi family for running away.
Historically, people of the state have voted out the incumbent government every 5 years. This trend has been there for the past 30 years. So, going purely by the trends, it is the turn of BJP to win these elections. The state has 68 seats and BJP in 2014 in Lok Sabha elections was leading in 59 of them. All opinion polls suggest a victory for the BJP. Traditionally, there has been a gap of around 5% in the vote share of BJP and Congress in the state. Rajputs support has been switching between Congress and BJP in polls.
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Himachal is one of the few states where the upper caste is in majority. Rajputs and Brahmins account for 50% of population. SC / ST account for 32% of population and 20 seats are reserved for the category. Whoever gets the majority of Rajput community votes usually wins the elections. Like Brahmins have remained loyal to BJP over the years, SC/ST have remained loyal to Congress. It is the Rajput vote which determines the winner.
This is one of the primary reasons BJP was forced to declare P.K. Dhumal, a Rajput as its Chief Ministerial candidate, just few days before the polls. BJP, depsite corruption cases, was not getting the same traction, as there was confusion over its CM face. Rumours suggested J.P. Nadda, a Brahmin, could be made the CM, after polls. Rajputs, obviously, were not very happy with this, and BJP was forced to clear the air.
Source: HT, CSDS, Census 2011 (Caste Graph)
A small state, both BJP and Congress, have faced rebel candidates in the past. This time too, some rebel BJP candidates are contesting on Congress ticket. Virbhadra Singh’s son, Vikramaditya Singh, is making his debut in these elections. Dynastic politics is one of the major poll planks of BJP. Of course, clearly forgetting about, father son duo of PK Dhumal and Anurag Thakur.
A loss in Himachal will reduce the number of paltry states left with Congress and BJP will claim its Congress-mukt Bharat goal is approaching fast. A win here, not big from national politics point of view, will still be hailed as victory of PM Modi’s welfare and economic policies. This is predominantly turning out into a contest of personalities, Virbhadra versus Prem Kumar.
The announcement of CM candidate just eight days before the elections, reminds us of Delhi type situation, where Kiran Bedi was foisted to take the blame of a BJP loss. Will BJP meet the same fate as in Delhi or will the trend continue? As of now, BJP seems to be well placed for a comfortable margin.