With the verdict for the Himachal Pradesh Assembly election due to come out in a few hours time, both the ruling Congress and opposition BJP on Sunday expressed confidence about forming the next government in the hill state.
While most exit poll surveys indicated BJP's return to power with an absolute majority in the 9 November Assembly elections, political observers said it was a neck-and-neck contest between the Congress and the BJP since there is "no clear wave in favour of any party".
Interestingly, the state has alternately elected Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party governments since 1985. In 2012, the Congress had won 36 seats, while the BJP got 26, and independents six.
Considering the fact that politics in Himachal Pradesh are largely dominated by the upper caste, the parties stirred up caste-based poll strategies in order to shake the competition. With the election results to be revealed in a few hours, here’s a list of key faces linked to this battle of political power in Himachal Pradesh.
In a surprise move, BJP nominated Prem Kumar Dhumal as its chief ministerial pick, largely owing to the caste-factors dominant in state politics. This development was followed shortly after the Congress party announced the 83 year old Virbhadra Singh as their chief ministerial candidate for Himachal Pradesh. BJP's dependence on the Thakur vote and Congress' decision to name the 83-year-old current Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh as its campaign committee chief were, in all likelihood, the primary reasons why Dhumal was named BJP's chief ministerial candidate, a move welcomed by BJP workers. A BJP leader also told Hindustan Times that political calculations and feedback taken over the last 10 days made BJP realise that Dhumal was the best person for chief ministerial candidate. Dhumal is a senior party leader and a two-time chief minister of the hill state.
Congress, desperate to repeat its performance from 2012 election, has named Virbhadra Singh once again as their chief ministerial candidate for the 2017 elections for Himachal Pradesh. Singh has been the chief minister for the state of Himachal Pradesh six times so far and is hoping for the seventh run on Monday. However, things may not swing in the sitting chief minister’s favour as he battles corruption charges and the sentiment of anti-incumbency cannot be ruled out.
Dhumal’s prodigy-turned-political rival Rajinder Rana is expected to give the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate a tough battle in his Sujanpur constituency Rana, who had contested the 2012 election as an Independent candidate had defeated his nearest Congress rival Anita Verma by 14,155 votes. Rana had extended support to Virbhadra Singh after winning the polls last time and had resigned to contest Lok Sabha polls from Hamirpur in 2014, a move which has landed him in the crosshairs of his mentor.
Vikramaditya Singh, son of the current chief minister of the state Virbhadra Singh, had been preparing since 2012 to contest for the assembly elections in 2017 from Shimla Rural seat. The 28-year-old is a post graduate in History from Delhi’s St Stephen College. He is also the president of Himachal Pradesh Congress’ youth wing.
The chief minister, who had won his seat by more than 20,000 votes in 2012, had nursed the constituency well and vacated the seat for his son and himself shifted to Arki.
Pramod Sharma of the BJP is standing against Vikramaditya from Shimla rural on a BJP ticket. The announcement of BJP ticket to Sharma came as surprise for the party as it had no potential candidate to take on Vikramaditya, who has made a debut in electoral politics, The Times of India reported. Sharma has dubbed the contest a battle between the royalty and a commoner. A report by Zee News states that Sharma was, at one time, propped up in politics by Virbhadra Singh to take on Congress veteran Vidya Stokes. But his entry in the fray against Vikramadatya on a BJP ticket may damage the Congress candidate’s chances in election.
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Updated Date: Dec 18, 2017 08:17:07 IST