Himachal Pradesh polls: From corruption to competence, all issues BJP and Congress fought over in the run-up to election
The fate of 337 candidates in Himachal Pradesh including Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and his predecessor Prem Kumar Dhumal will be known on Monday
The fate of 337 candidates including Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and his predecessor Prem Kumar Dhumal will be known Monday as votes are set to be counted in the Himachal Pradesh election. In a state where BJP and Congress have been going back and forth for all 68 seats, 50 lakh voters will give one of the parties a mandate.
The BJP is looking to wrest power from the ruling Congress. Himachal Pradesh, traditionally, has a history of strong anti-incumbency. For the past five terms, Himachal has seen power shift between Congress and BJP governments. The hill state witnessed a record 75.28 percent turnout and pollsters predicted a BJP victory. The BJP seems upbeat looking at the results of exit polls.
In this year's Assembly election, Virbhadra Singh, 10 ministers, eight chief parliamentary secretaries, deputy speaker Jagat Singh Negi, former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and over a dozen former ministers are among those who have thrown their hat in the ring.
The Congress led by Singh and the BJP led by Dhumal are contesting all 68 seats while the BSP is contesting 42 seats, followed by the CPM at 14, Swabhiman Party and Lok Gathbandhan Party six each and the CPI three. The full list of candidates can be found here.
Chief ministerial candidates
While Congress fielded Virbhadra Singh, the BJP announced former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal as the saffron party's face. The BJP made the announcement a few days before voting took place, breaking a party tradition of not revealing the name of the chief ministerial choice before counting of votes was over.
Dhumal is a senior party leader and a two-time chief minister of the hill state. Against the backdrop of widespread speculation that the party would consider the idea of projecting Union minister JP Nadda as its chief ministerial candidate, Dhumal's name was announced by his son, BJP MP Anurag Thakur, who claimed his father's name had been agreed upon well in advance.
Dhumal was chief minister from 2007 to 2013 before being deposed by Virbhadra Singh. He contested from Hamirpur in 2012, but this time he is contesting from Sujanpur constituency where women outnumber men by over 2, 200 voters. He said safety and security would be his main priorities.
The 83-year-old Singh has been chief minister six times. When announcing his candidacy, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said, "Virbhadra Singh ji, you became chief minister six times and I assure that you would become chief minister for the seventh time also. The entire Congress party stands behind you."
Addressing the the same rally, Singh said his government ensured uniform development without any other consideration and said development would be the main election plank of the party in the Assembly polls.
The state went to the polls on 9 November. The Congress and BJP traded barbs over issues ranging from corruption to the menace of the mining mafia.
Corruption was the main focus of the BJP campaign with the party training its guns at Singh, while the Congress hit out at the BJP over the issue of Goods and Services Tax and demonetisation.
On his maiden trip to Himachal Pradesh, BJP chief Amit Shah stepped up the party's campaign in the state, claiming that Singh would go down in history as an "example for corruption", who dented the state's clean image and has also "destroyed" his family and aides.
Countering BJP's attacks, Congress leader Anand Sharma said, "Mere allegations of corruption against a leader by the Opposition doesn’t make someone corrupt. Many BJP leaders have serious corruption charges against them. How about Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh, whose son’s name had come up in the Panama Papers or the chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan? Have they ordered any probe against them?"
Addressing rallies in the hill state before polling, Shah said the menace of various mafias in the state has slowed down development. "Himachal has become a land of the mafia with forest mafia, mining mafia, drug mafia, transfer mafia, liquor mafia and land mafia flourishing in the state," he alleged in Dalhousie and Jwali.
BJP leader Dhumal also said the new government would strive hard to end "mafia raj" in the state and restore the confidence of the people in the administration.
Rahul told a rally in Mandi that the Himachal model of development was far superior to the Gujarat Model. He said that the state government in Shimla was ahead in development indicators as compared to the Gujarat government for the past five years.
Shah responded to Rahul's claims of development, saying the present government was "neither competent nor capable" of ensuring development in Himachal Pradesh. The high voter turnout left both the BJP and Congress claiming victory was imminent.
With inputs from agencies