Stakes are high for six-time Congress Chief Minister, Virbhadra Singh, 83, and former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Chief Minister, Prem Kumar Dhumal, 73, in Himachal Pradesh Assembly polls.
The two have fought ‘face to face’ freely leading their own parties in the state Assembly polls since 1998 for power in Himachal.
However, this time, Singh is battling more to establish his son, Vikramaditya Singh, who is contesting his maiden election, and Dhumal for his own survival at the top with ever strong party high ups taking command in Himachal polls.
Singh is known as a persistent fighter and has been able to move the things in his favour in Congress with his leadership capacity and hold on ground.
Dhumal, two time former CM and a popular leader, is better known for his common appeal.
As expected Singh could bend the Congress high command declare him CM face again, but the BJP changed its electoral strategy and has not given its ‘face’ in HP so far, leading to anxiety in the party.
The issue worries the Dhumal camp more as the polls near as it may be the last chance for him to become the CM, given the ‘age bar’ of 75 years the BJP has enforced at the national level.
Party sources said a section of BJP did try to send feelers to high command about his popularity across the state, but to no avail so far.
His supporters are still hopeful, although.
“There is no indication from high command on the leadership issue so far,” state BJP chief, Satpal Singh Satti told The Statesman.
In case of Singh, although the age is not on his side, he has managed to remain at the top with politics revolving around son in polls.
He left his Assembly constituency, Shimla (Rural) for Vikramaditya, 28, and lobbied hard with Congress high command for his ticket that was declared on Sunday night, a day before the last date of nomination today.
His push moved the Congress high command relax the ‘One Family One Ticket’ norm in Himachal Pradesh, paving the way for ticket of even Health minister, Kaul Singh’s daughter, Champa Thakur as well. Although that’s a separate matter that Vikramaditya is facing an old loyalist of Singh in his electoral battle field, Shimla (Rural), who is contesting against him on BJP ticket- A situation that Singh will have to tackle cautiously.
Congress insiders said for Singh, the victory in this election would mean chief ministership 7th time, and more than that, a power to establish his son alongside.