Himachal Pradesh elections: High-decibel campaign ends, now it’s over to the voter


The high-decibel campaign for the Himachal Pradesh assembly elections ended on Thursday evening with the hill state set to vote on Saturday.

The final day of campaign saw top BJP leaders, including Amit Shah and JP Nadda, addressing rallies in Sirmaur and Kangra districts and the Congress camp holding Vijay Ashirwaad rallies in all 68 assembly segments even as party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra addressed a public meeting at Sirmaur.

Apart from Shah and Nadda, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath addressed four rallies in Banjar, Sundernagar, Nachan and Una, while chief minister Jai Ram Thakur addressed one at Rampur Bushar, the citadel of former five-time chief minister and late Congress leader Virbhadra Singh, on Thursday. Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag helds Road Show in Bilaspur

Fight between BJP, Congress

Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the BJP’s aggressive campaign by addressing four election meetings sine canvassing picked up pace on October 29. Union home minister Amit Shah kept the BJP flag flying high by addressing 11 rallies, while party chief JP Nadda addressed 20 gatherings. Union minister Rajnath Singh was at five gatherings and Smriti Irani at nine rallies. Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath addressed 16 rallies.

As compared to the BJP blitzkrieg, the Congress campaign was subdued with Priyanka Gandhi Vadra addressing five election rallies and party president Mallikarjun Kharge attended one rally. The party banked on state leaders to reach out to voters.

The Aam Aadmi Party campaign, which started even before October 14 when the Election Commission announced the poll date, lost steam midway as its leader Arvind Kejriwal and Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann shifted focus to Gujarat that goes to the polls on December 1 and 5.

The BJP projected Jai Ram Thakur as its chief ministerial candidate, but the Congress and the AAP rested their bets and did not reveal their CM face.

“We raised the issues related to people whether it is OPS, unemployment or plight of the framers. Instead of big rallies, we focused on corner and small meetings,” said Congress campaign committee head Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu.

“The contest is only between the BJP and Congress. The AAP stands nowhere. We sought votes on development, healthcare, social welfare, women empowerment and overall development of the state,” said Himachal BJP president Suresh Kashyap.

AAP’s state spokesperson Pankaj Pandit said: “We are contesting elections with full strength. Our star campaigners, including Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, deputy CM Manish Sisodia, Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann and Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh campaigned in the state.”

The BJP and Congress are contesting all 68 assembly seats. The BJP built its campaign on the strength of its double-engine growth with development projects undertaken by the state with the Centre’s backing. It hopes to break the trend of power alternating between it and Congress.

The Congress rolled out 10 guarantees by promising the restoration of the old pension scheme, five lakh jobs and 1,500 a month to women.

The Aam Aadmi Party is contesting the elections on 67 seats. It launched its campaign promising freebies but lost steam as the election neared.

The Bahujan Samajwadi Party is fighting in 53 constituencies, the Rashtriya Devbhoomi Party in 29, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in 11, the Himachal Jan Kranti Party in six, the Hindu Samaj Party and Swabhiman Party in three each and the Himachal Janata Party, Bharatiya Veer Dal, Sainik Samaj Party, Rashtriya Lok Niti Party and Communist Party of India in one each. There are 99 independent candidates in the fray.

What voters want

Among the issues that dominated the poll landscape are the old pension scheme, job creation, quality education, balanced development, apple growers’ demands, Women empowerment and tribal status of the Hattee community.

“There is a mixed response on the OPS, unemployment and horticulture. Policies such as Ayushman Bharat, Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana and other general welfare schemes, besides national security and foreign policy have a traceable impact on the electorate in the hill state. Strong leadership and organisational factors will also play a significant role,” said Harish Thakur, head of political science department in the Himachal Pradesh University.

Young guns and old guards in fray

The maximum number of 11 candidates in the fray are from the Jogindernagar assembly constituency, while the minimum number of three candidates each are in Churah constituency of Chamba district, Lahaul-Spiti and Drang in Mandi district.

The youngest candidate Piyush Kanga, 26, is contesting from Bilaspur assembly constituency as an independent. The other youngsters in the fray are Chaitanya, 28, of the Congress from Gagret; Aam Aadmi Party candidate Jabna, 29, from Nachan; Pooja, 29, of Himachal Jan Kranti Party from Bharmour; Manisha, 30, of the Aam Aadmi Party from the Nurpur; Kishori Lal, 31 of the CPI(M) from Karsog; Vikramaditya Singh, 33, of the Congress from Shimla Rural and Deep Raj, 34, of the BJP candidate from Karsog.

Among the seniors in the fray are Col Dhani Ram Shandil (retd), 82, of the Congress from Solan; Chandra Kumar, 78, of the Congress from Jawali; Gangu Ram Musafir, 77, an Independent from Pachhad; Kaul Singh Thakur, 76, of the Congress from Drang; Thakur Singh Bharmouri, 75, of the Congress from Bharmour and Kishori Lal, 75, of the Congress from Baijnath.

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