The push for high-tech manufacturing is evident in the ambitions of leaders like our Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Saudi Arab- ia’s Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman.
On the eve of the counting, the ruling BJP is upbeat as most of the exit polls have given an edge to the party, while Congress is banking on the tradition of change in government after every five years.
As some poll pundits have predicted a neck-to-neck fight between traditional rivals, all eyes are on rebel candidates as they could possibly emerge kingmakers. However, neither BJP nor Congress is taking chances to miss the opportune probability of grabbing power in the state.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, under whose leadership the BJP fought the assembly elections, is stated to stay put in Shimla to keep a tab and manage the rebels if the need arises.
National leaders Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi held rallies across the state, striking an emotional chord with people by claiming Himachal as their second home.
Meanwhile, Congress is expected to move its MLAs to party-ruled states to keep its flock together for fear of poaching. Congress campaign committee president Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, a contender for CM’s post, has targeted state Congress president Pratibha Singh by announcing that the CM would be from amongst the winning MLAs.
While the BJP is clear on who will head its government, factionalism in the Congress has come out in the open whereas Pratibha Singh and her MLA son Vikramaditya Singh have recently joined the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ of their leader Rahul Gandhi dropping a hint of lobbying for the top post.
Political experts say that all political parties will be closely watching the outcome of results in Kangra on 8 December as the district has always gone one-sided in favour of the winning party in the state. The Kangra district has the highest of 15 Assembly segment for any district.
In the 2017 assembly polls, the BJP won 11 seats, while the opposition Congress won three, whereas one went to an independent. In 2012, the results were totally opposite as the Congress won 10 seats and formed the government, whereas BJP won just three and independents bagged two seats.
Another district that will be keenly watched is Mandi district the home turf of incumbent CM Jai Ram Thakur. Last time BJP bagged all 10 seats in the district.
This time around the outcome will be a barometer for Jai Ram Thakur’s leadership.
Congress veteran and eight-time MLA Kaul Singh Thakur is also trying his luck from the Darang assembly segment in the Mandi district and has already stoked his claim as CM in case Congress comes to power. Having lost only twice, he can emerge as a dark horse.
Four-time MLA and Leader of the Opposition Mukesh Agnihotri is also being seen as a chief ministerial candidate.
Congress general Secretary Priyanka Gandhi even held a public rally in his assembly segment.
For BJP National president J P Nadda, the outcome will be significant as he hails from the state and is behind the party strategy and ticket distribution.
These elections are also important for the new faces who will have to prove their mettle including R S Bali son of Congress veteran G S Bali, Rajat Thakur who replaces his father a sitting MLA, and minister Mahinder Singh Thakur who had been contesting the election from the Dharampur seat since 1989.
The elections are also seen as a test of competing freebies as all the parties offered something or the other if voted to power.
Congress has tried to cash in on the employees’ sentiments over the Old Pension Scheme while the BJP has termed it unfeasible. The election marked the end of former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal’s era in BJP politics and the start of the Nadda-Jai Ram partnership.