Maneesh Chhibber on HP Polls
Posted on Thu , 20 Dec '12
Welcome to this edition of Express commentary on the Himachal Assembly Elections 2012. Of the 68 Assembly constituencies, the Congress is expected to comeback to power displacing the ruling BJP in the State. With that, out goes the ambition of Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal to retain power. Most analysts were divided on what the vote share and number of seats that each party would get, with many even predicting that for the first time, the incumbent government of the BJP would buck the trend and retain power. One reason for the Congress''s return to power is that the party handed out the entire campaign to former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who, despite being under the shadow of a disproportionate assets case, continues to be the biggest crowd-puller of the party. The party gave him a free hand in selecting candidates, which results now show he reasonably well. The party is likely to get 36 seats (the podcast was done before the final results tally was announced). One thing that went in favour of the Congress was the persisting differences between the Dhumal and Shanta Kumar camps. Post-June Shanta Kumar had raised issues of corruption involving the BJP govt, leveling serious charges against senior people of the party. There were also many questions about the style of functioning of Dhumal and the growing influence of his politician son, Anurag Thakur, who is MP from Hamirpur. On the other hand, Congress''s Virbhadra Singh, even though he had to resign from the Union cabinet due to allegations of corruption, people seem to have ignored the charges against him. Voters seem to have voted out a BJP government that, while seen as having performed, was also viewed as corrupt. However, there is a big question mark on whether the Congress leadership would decide to make him the chief minister. Since yesterday, when it became clear that the Congress might return to power, Virbhadra Singh''s dectractors have been lobbying to ensure that he is not appointed the Chief Minister. In case, he is not made the chief minister, the Congress stands to lose and the party has to face the electorate again in 2014 when general elections are held. However, if he is not made the Chief Minister, the post could go to either Union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, who hails from the state, or a former Speaker of the Himachal Pradesh Assembly.