CHENNAI: Himachal Pradesh is going into elections on November 9, results for which will be declared on December 18. The election is a big test for the incumbent Congress to retain one of the few states in which it is power. The BJP will be looking to spread the tinge of saffron across north India.
Number of constituencies: 68
The smallest Assembly constituency is Shimla and the largest Lahaul-Spiti. In terms of number of voters, the smallest is Lahaul-Spiti with 22,995 electors and the largest is Sullah with 95,064 electors.
No party wins twice
Since 1985, Himachal Pradesh has alternated between choosing the Congress and the BJP. In the 2012 election, the Congress bagged 36 of the 68 seats with a vote share of 42.81 percent. The BJP took 26 seats with a 38.47 percent vote share.
Three key issues
Virbhadra's golden apples
In 2012, Virbhadra Singh was sworn in as the chief minister despite facing cases of corruption. The CBI had registered a case against Singh, his wife Pratibha Singh, Life Insurance Corporation agent Anand Chauhan and an associate Chunni Lal under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The agency alleged that Singh’s earnings, estimated at Rs 10.30 crore, were disproportionate to his know income between 2009 and 2012 when he was the Union steel minister. The Enforcement Directorate too registered a case of money laundering against Singh.
However, Virbhadra Singh claims the money came from the sale of apples from his orchids.
L&O: Rape and jail murder
About eight police officials of Himachal Pradesh, including an inspector-general and a deputy superintendent of police, were arrested by CBI in connection with the custodial death of an accused who allegedly raped and murdered a 16-year-old school girl in July 2017. The police claimed that Suraj Singh was killed in a scuffle in the cell, but an eyewitness to the incident told CBI that he was brought to the cell in a critical condition after hours of interrogation. The High Court has directed the CBI to file fresh reports in the case by December 20.
Over eight lakh young men and women are said to be unemployed in the state as on December 31, 2016, according to an Economic and Statistics Department report. There is a lack of industry in the state, and the growth of tourism, the mainstay of the economy, has been handicapped by poor infrastructure. Some of the villages in the upper reaches of the Himalayas are bedevilled by immigration.
· New tourist and religious circuit
· Laptops and tablets for students
· 24-hour helpline at Secretariat
· Gudiya helpline at all police stations
· Helicopter ambulances
· Drinking water for every household
· Hike in GST exemption to Rs 80 lakh
· 1.5 lakh new jobs in government
· Laptops for 50,000 college students
· Higher compensation for landowners
· Interest-free loans to farmers
· Regularisation of contract employees
· Social security pension for those older than 60
Five main personalities
At 83, he is the second longest serving chief minister of Himachal Pradesh after YS Parmar. His image was hurt in 2012 after allegations of corruption were levelled against him. He's contesting from Arki in Solan district.
Sukhvinder Singh Sukku
The PCC chief, he's had his differences with the chief minister. Should the party decide to look beyond Virbhadra Singh, Sukku is a possibility — if the Congress wins the polls. He has been fielded from Naduan constituency.
He is Virbhadra Singh son’s and Himachal's Youth Congress He's contesting elections from Shimla (rural).
Prem Kumar Dhumal
A seasoned politician with two decades of experience, Dhumal is the BJP's chief ministerial face in this election. The party's faith in him has surprised many who had expected Narendra Modi to go to someone younger. He's contesting from Sujanpur.
The Union health minister was widely expected to be the BJP chief ministerial candidate before the party plumped for PK Dhumal. However, Nadda remains a figure to be reckoned with in the state.