“Modi ka shor jyada hai…Baaki dekho kya hota hai (There is much noise for Modi. Let’s see what happens),” said a retired teacher, as he enters into discussion with his friends, all in late 70s, at a tea shop on highway near Slapper village in Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh.
All the four elderly people, drawn from different fields, loudly talk about politics and elections with their own examples.
But they are shrewd enough not to share their mind, when it comes to probable winner. “Kya pata lagta hai ji kiskey mann mein kya hai. Apni apni raay hai (What can we say about the voters. Everybody has their own opinion),” said one of them quickly.
The answer reflects the general tendency of the literate and aware voters in Himachal Pradesh, who are highly ‘political’ in conduct, but don’t open up on their choices in the political battlefield.
The literacy rate of Himachal Pradesh as per 2011 census was roughly 83 per cent. The electors in the hill state always keep the political parties on toes and what makes them really different is that they have not spared big leaders like former CMs Shanta Kumar, Prem Kumar Dhumal and former Union minister, Sukh Ram in their electoral battlefield in the past in different elections.
Even former six-time Congress CM, Virbhadra Singh, who has ruled the state for over 21 years, could win Lok Sabha poll from Mandi seat by slender margin.
While since 1985, they have been changing the government in the state after every five years (with Congress and BJP alternating power), they have been largely preferring ruling party in state in Lok Sabha polls.
2014 Lok Sabha poll, however, broke the trend, when all four Lok Sabha seats of Himachal went to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in opposition in state then, visibly due to ‘Modi wave’.
The biggest surprise had come from Mandi seat in 2014, where the BJP’s novice, sitting MP now, Ram Swaroop Sharma, who is contesting again, had defeated then Congress Chief Minister, Virbhadra Singh’s wife and sitting MP, Pratibha Singh.
All this despite the fact that Virbhadra Singh, who has represented Mandi in Parliament earlier, had pumped in much energy and resources in Mandi for her victory.
“There was strong Modi wave in 2014. The BJP is again banking heavily on Modi. But there are other factors also into play. People will vote for Modi after evaluating his work in 2019,” shared a college student from Kangra.
Himachal Pradesh has four Lok Sabha seats-Kangra, Hamirpur, Mandi and Shimla (Reserved). Two out of four sitting MPs of BJP, three-time MP Anurag Thakur in Hamirpur and one time MP, Ram Swaroop Sharma in Mandi are seeking re-election.
Mandi Parliamentary constituency is the largest and toughest in HP as it includes the entire trial area.
Although both ruling BJP and Congress are facing infighting, the BJP’s campaign was louder than Congress with just two slogans— ‘Phir Ek Baar Modi Sarkar’ and ‘Himachal Mein Ek Bar Phir Char ki Char’- in the air.