PM Modi sets in motion BJP's Himachal poll campaign
PM Modi commences BJP's Himachal poll campaign with a rally on the banks of Gobind Sagar Lake, the man-made reservoir created by the Bhakra-Nagal dam, in Bilaspur. He will also lay the foundation stone for the Rs. 1350cr AIIMS project at Bilaspur, an IIT at Saloh, Una and inaugurate a steel plant at Kandrori, Kangra. Himachal may go to polls in November. Know more!
In 2012, BJP had lost in the Assembly elections mainly due to the infighting between former CMs Prem Kumar Dhumal and Shanta Kumar. BJP won 29 of the Assembly's 68 seats. This year, there is a possibility of JP Nadda, who emerged as BJP's power center in Himachal after being appointed as Union Minister for health and family welfare, standing for CM's post.
The Bilaspur rally is Modi's third rally after Shimla, held this year, and Mandi, last year. In April, the centre had launched the UDAN air service, allowing tourists to travel between New Delhi and Shimla for Rs. 2000. They had also announced 61 national highways in the state, which they accused the Congress-led state government for delaying, and Amrit pharmacies for supplying low-cost medicines.
Modi's rally is significant as the BJP aims for 50+ seats in the Assembly polls, and they have been running a strategic campaign highlighting the central government's achievements. This rally could give a boost to JP Nadda's CM candidature as Bilaspur is his home constituency.
Meanwhile, Congress has been facing a similar tussle for power within its ranks. Last month, CM Virbhadra Singh met Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi regarding his disagreements with Congress state president Sukhwinder Sukku. He reportedly wanted a "free hand" in party organization and tickets allotment. However, six-time CM Singh is important for the Congress as despite corruption charges, he is regarded a mass leader.
On the eve of PM Modi's Bilaspur visit, Himachal Pradesh Congress chief Naresh Chauhan demanded to know when "achhe din" would come. He said "prices of commodities" are high but "government was only worried about Ambani and Adani." He accused Modi of making "false promises."
Since 1967, Himachal has witnessed a two-party system of BJP-Congress, and since 1985, no party has been re-elected to power. In 2012, BSP, CPI, CPM and NCP stood for elections, but candidates had to forfeit deposits. Experiments were made to float parties like Maheshwar Singh-led Himachal Lokhit party and Sukh Ram-led Himachal Vikas Congress, but they returned to the BJP and Congress fold respectively.
Apart from parties facing internal clashes, Congress also faces a strong anti-incumbency and CM Singh's corruption charges. Meanwhile, the BJP has so far deferred from announcing its CM candidate as it could lead to camps within the party affecting their vote share. They are relying on Modi's charisma to tide through. It remains to be seen how parties will address the challenges they face.