CHANDIGARH: The party that bags the maximum number of seats in lower Himachal Pradesh – in the districts of Kangra, Hamirpur, Bilaspur, Una, Solan and parts of Mandi – is expected to from the next government in the hill state.
Since 1993, there has been a regime change every five years, with the Congress and the BJP alternately helming the state. By that yardstick, it is the BJP’s turn to occupy the hot seat this time. In the 68-seat Assembly, the magic figure to form government is 35.
Winning Kangra and Mandi are crucial as the two districts have 15 and 10 seats respectively. In the last election, the Congress won 10 seats in Kangra, the BJP three, and Independents two. This time it is expected that the BJP will do well as Anil Sharma, a former Congress minister, switched sides before the polls, along with his father and former telecom minister Sukh Ram.
Exit polls have projected that the BJP will sweep Himachal, bagging about 45-50 seats.
Its vote share is expected to improve by over nine per cent from 38.47 per cent in 2012, sources claimed. The Congress is also expected to increase its vote share but will lose seats.
This time, Himachal Pradesh recorded 74 per cent voter turnout, the highest ever in Assembly elections in the last four decades. Both Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and two-time former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal fought from new seats.
Singh contested from Arki in Solan district, vacating Shimla (Rural) for son Vikramaditya. Dhumal – the BJP’s CM candidate – fought from Sujanpur, swapping Hamirpur with party legislator Narendra Thakur.
It is a do-or-die battle for Singh and Dhumal who are both struggling for political survival. “Dhumal is almost marginalised by the BJP faction led by Union Health Minister J P Nadda. CM Singh is fighting to establish his son, who is contesting his first Assembly election, and to ensure a Congress victory.
He forced the Congress to name him as the CM candidate despite all odds,” said a political observer.
The BJP is banking on anti-incumbency, corruption allegations, non-governance charges and the bad law and order in the state. The Congress has tried hard to play up the development card but it doesn’t seem to have worked so far.