NEW DELHI: No party has been able to win consecutive elections in the state after 1985. This is why returning to office is the BJP’s biggest challenge and Congress‘greatest opportunity. Here are the strengths and weaknesses of the best contenders in the next election contest:
Modes factor: Prime Minister Narendra Modi remains a major attraction in the state where he ran the BJP affairs. The fact that party leader JP Nadda belongs to the state could help.
Major projects: The party has launched major development projects for education, health and industry and has made development and the theme of the “twin engine” sarkar its main axis.
Rule without controversy: The mandate of CM Jai Ram Thakur remained largely free from controversy jolts. The vaccination program was a success and ensured a rapid resumption of tourism.
Hatti decision: The recent decision by the Union government to grant tribal status to the Hatti community of Sirmaur could have a negative impact on the party in some seats in the district, but overall it will help the BJP in the state.
Anti-incumbent: The state has its share of local grievances and sector resentments that historically have added to the disadvantage of the incumbent.
Apple farmers, government staff: The twin lobbies are strong enough to influence the outcome in a small state. They are calling for the restoration of the old pension scheme which the Center opposes.
Backed by great leaders, the BJP can use the development survey plan to its fullest advantage.
Bias in the party can ruin its chances of achieving good results. Also, AAPEntry may result in a triangular contest in many polling stations, upsetting the well-known polling equations in the state.
Jai Ram Thakur: The 57-year-old CM in office has weathered a political storm following last year’s poll defeats and is leading the fight in Himachal. He has hard work to do as no party has won consecutive polls in the past four decades. Thakur has the image of a “nice and nice” CM, but he is often criticized for not being a strong leader. He represents Seraj constituency in the Mandi district.


Victories by poll: The party is optimistic after winning all four by-elections, including one for a seat in Lok Sabha, in November last year.
The survey promises: The party’s election promises, including the restoration of the old pension, free electricity up to 300 units and 1,500 rupees per month for women, appear to have found success.
Virbhadra factor: Congress is banking on the legacy of the late Virbhadra Singh, the longest-lived CM in the state, who died last year.
Bias: Divisions within the party can ruin its chances. There are many contenders for the post CM. Defections, especially of veteran Hard Mahajan who joined the BJP damaged the party. The perception of its decline nationwide could harm a recovering BJP.
Leadership void: The party was unable to fill the void left by the death of former CM Virbhadra Singh. No Big Name: Unlike the BJP, national congressional leaders lacked action in the state. There have been no major congressional rallies in the past month or so.

Congress can take advantage of the anti-incumbency and discontent of large pressure groups.
Bias is the biggest threat to Congress. The party is equally wary of the AAP rookie, who could ruin his chances in many seats, especially those bordering Punjab.
Pratibha Singh: Wife of the late CM Virbhadra Singh, she faces the dual challenge of bringing Congress back to the Himachal government and containing factions within the party. The 66-year-old is the first choice of the Congressional high command to lead the party and was named president of the state unit in April. Politically savvy, she is leading an armed election campaign on the legacy of her late husband.


Punjab factor: Fresh off his win in neighboring Punjab, the AAP is aiming to cash in on his performance there.
Health and education: The AAP promises better health and education, the two sectors that have remained mostly neglected and could attract voters.
The survey promises: Promises such as unemployment benefits of Rs 3,000 and free pilgrimages can find many buyers.
Third option: The party has projected itself as a better and cleaner alternative to the BJP and Congress in the state. It can attract influential local “scraps” from the BJP and Congress.
Picture: The party is contesting polls in Himachal for the first time and has no grassroots presence in the state. essia
hitches of the campaign: After an aggressive start, the AAP political campaign has suffered a lot of shocks due to the defections. His performance in Delhi and Punjab is under closer scrutiny than before.
Strong leadership: The party has no strong leaders in the state. Plus, it’s just starting to make itself felt, unlike Punjab.
The group can benefit from Punjab’s victory in areas along the Himachal border belt.
The leaders of the AAP have left for other parties, while its embrace of the defectors will tarnish its image as a new alternative. The party needs stability to find its feet in Himalayan politics.
Surjit Thakur: He found political recognition in the state after being named president of the AAP state in June. Backed by AAP president Arvind Kejriwal, Thakur leads the party in the first polls of the assembly in Himachal. He is from Nahan, Sirmaur district.

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