April 20, 2014

HIMACHAL & LOK SABHA 2014


A STRAIGHT FIGHT BETWEEN THE BJP AND THE CONGRESS


The small yet beautiful state of Himachal Pradesh will see a straight contest between the two big national parties. In the 2012 elections, it was the Congress that pipped the BJP to emerge as the single largest party in the legislature. From a tally of 23, the INC's figures soared by 13 to end at 36; the saffron camp on the other hand saw its numbers plummet from 42 to 26. Remember, the BJP had fought the elections on the issue of allegations of corruption against the Congress's CM candidate Veer Bhadra Singh. The INC is hopeful that like in 2012, the people of the Himalayan state will still vote for it in spite of the myriad scams that have rocked the UPA in recent years. The saffronists are banking on the Modi wave plus the anti-incumbency factor to reclaim the state that had overwhelmingly voted for the it, even in 2009 Lok Sabha.

ISSUES

(1) Anti-incumbency against UPA II: The Manmohan Singh regime in its second innings has failed in almost all spheres. Price rise and inflation have taken its toll on the common man. While the economy has weakened, unemployment and poverty continue to remain high. There is a strong anti-incumbency mood against the Congress in the country and the hill state is no exception. However, the 'One rank, one pension' policy announced by the outgoing government in its last budget could help it win seats in a state which sends large number of people to the armed forces. On the other hand, the saffron brigade is relying on the magic of the Gujarat CM Modi to help it retain its lead over the Congress in Himachal in spite of the loss in the last state polls. Remember, it was at a rally here that Narendra Modi had taken a totally uncalled for dig at Union Minister Shashi Tharoor by referring to his wife as a '50 Crore Girl Friend'. An interesting point to note is that since the state sent 3 MPs to the Parliament in 2009, there could be a potential anti-incumbency against them too.

(2) The performance of the VBS regime: The November 2012 elections were one of the closest that were fought in the history of Himachal. As mentioned earlier, the saffron camp which had nearly won two thirds majority in 2007, was reduced to 26. In spite of allegations of corruption against its CM candidate Veer Bhadra Singh, the Congress won a simple majority on its own. Nearly one and half years down the line, the 2009 Lok Sabha elections will be a test for his government.

CONTENDERS

(1) Congress: In 2009, the Himalayan state was one of the few where the NDA beat the UPA comprehensively. Now that the Congress is in power in the state, the grand old party is hoping that this time around, it will turn the tables on the saffron outfit. Moreover, the party will be hoping that the like it happened in Himachal, the allegations of corruption against the UPA II will not deter voters from supporting the Congress. Its candidates include the wife of incumbent CM Pratibha Singh (Mandi), Mohan Lal Bragta (Shimla), Chandra Kumar (Kangra) and former independent MLA Rajinder Rana (Hamirpur) who has joined the INC recently. He is pitted against BJP's Anurag Thakur.

(2) Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP): Like in other North Indian states, the saffronists are banking on the Modi wave to win back the state it had lost in the 2012 state elections to the INC. For the BJP, replicating its success of 2009 will be a tough task, especially after being shunted out of power in Shimla. The party's candidates for the four Lok Sabha seats are son of former CM and incumbent MP Anurag Thakur (Hamirpur), former CM Shanta Kumar (Kangra) and incumbent MP Virendra Kashyap (Shimla). Unable to find a suitable candidate from Mandi against Mrs Singh, it is believed that the party had even offered the seat to its PM nominee Narendra Modi. Finally, the ticket went to Ram Swaroop Sharma.

(3) Aam Admi Party (AAP): Unlike in previous General Elections, the fight in Shimla has become triangular with Kejriwal-led outfit fielding candidates from the hill state. The party's nominees include Kamal Kant Batra, the mother of Kargil war hero Vikram Batra who has been fielded from Hamirpur, making it one of the most watched constituencies this Lok Sabha. Dr Rajan Sushant, the incumbent from Kangra has left the BJP to join AAP after being denied ticket. Other candidates of the party are Jai Chand Thakur (Mandi) and Subash Chander (Shimla).

PAST PERFORMANCES

The people of the hills have made a clear choice in the last five Lok Sabha elections. In 1996 though, the INC made a clean sweep, winning all four seats from here. In the other fours polls, the end result have been the same 3-1 but in favor of different parties. The BJP has the advantage in 2009, 1999 and 1998 whereas the Congress held the edge in 2004.

Political Party20092004199919981996
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)3133-
Congress13-14
Himachal Vikas Party (HVP)--1--

MY PREDICTIONS

The BJP is hiding high on the Modi wave while the Congress is battling anti-incumbency and charges of graft against VBS. History tells us that Himachal is a swing state. Considering it is advantage BJP, I think the saffron camp may win 3 to 4 seats.

Political PartyExpected Seats
1Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)3-4
2Congress0-1

WATCH OUT

(1) VBS faces litmus test: One person who will be following the elections in Himachal closely is the state CM Veer Bhadra Singh. If the results are the way I have predicted than you should not be surprised if VBS is sacked and replaced by a fresh face. The high command decided to stick with Singh in spite of the numerous corruption allegations against him. Even in 2014, most of the party's candidates who were allocated tickets are known to be loyal to VBS. On the other hand, his rival and HPCC president Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu was completely bypassed during the process. But a rout for the INC could see Singh being shunted out, perhaps in favor of Sukhu.

(2) Sujanpur by-elections: Unable to find a suitable candidate against Anurag Thakur, the Congress has roped in independent Sujanpur MLA Rajender Rana to fight the elections. Remember, Rana was once a Dhumal loyalist. Since he has resigned from the state assembly, the by-elections to this segment will be held along with the Lok Sabha polls. Rana's wife Anita Rana has been fielded as a Congress candidate whereas BJP has fielded Narendra Thakur who has recently quit the INC to join the saffron camp.

Other posts in this series:
(1) Karnataka & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(2) Rajasthan & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(3) Maharashtra & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(4) Goa & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(5) Kerala & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(6) Assam & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(7) Tripura & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(8) Haryana & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(9) Chhattisgarh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(10) Jammu Kashmir & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(11) Madhya Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(12) Telangana & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(13) Bihar & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(14) Jharkhand & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(15) Sikkim & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(16) Arunachal Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(17) Nagaland & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(18) Manipur & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(19) Meghalaya & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(20) Mizoram & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(21) Delhi & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(22) Gujarat & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(23) Punjab & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(24) Uttarakhand & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(25) Bengal & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(26) Odisha & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(27) Tamil Nadu & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(28) Andhra & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(29) Uttar Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)