The wait is over, the Congress has, finally, come back to power in Himachal Pradesh with 40 seats in the 68-member legislative assembly in the state.
Things had started changing in favour of an alternative in the state’s pre-poll political landscape. Local issues like price rise and controversial pension scheme coupled with growing dissidence in the ruling BJP have, finally, pushed the ruling BJP out of the race for power.
The contest on most of the seats was direct, between Congress and BJP. This is what the state has been witnessing since 1990 where the voters, normally, prefer the change of guard.
In keeping with the tradition, Himachal Pradesh has not given the incumbent government another term. As in the past, the mandate is clear this time too with the Congress getting an absolute majority.
A number of factors worked in favour of the Congress party. Prominent among them was the government’s lackadaisical approach to address concerns of the government employees over the new pension scheme. The Congress had promised to scrap the new pension scheme and restore the old one much to the relief of lakhs of the employees.
The promise brought a hope to the retired government employees as well.
The BJP, on the contrary, chose to keep mum on the entire issue. Neither BJP national president JP Nadda, nor Jai Ram Thakur, the outgoing chief minister, tried to clear the air over the issue. Taking advantage of the situation, the Congress played its card well by making it an election issue.
Unlike the BJP, Congress concentrated on the local issues confronting the people for years. The focus of the party was unemployment and inflation rather than the national issues like Article 370, Ram temple construction, etc. to connect to the locals. During a by-election last year, Jai Ram Thakur had himself raised the price rise among other local issues. But these issues were strangely missing from the saffron party’s poll campaign.
The Congress refrained from announcing a chief ministerial candidate as a strategy to avoid possible internal rift in the party. This ensured unity in the party and they were able to put up a united front to take on the might of the state’s ruling dispensation.
A simmering resentment in a section of BJP leaders and workers on the issue of ticket distribution also helped the Congress in the elections. A number of BJP leaders, who enjoy popular support in their respective localities, were denied tickets.
The growing dissension in the BJP helped the Congress formulate strategies to beat the ruling party in a number of constituencies. An example of this is that despite popularity at the grassroots level, Hareesh Janartha, a BJP leader was not allowed to contest from the Shimla Urban seat where the party candidate lost to his Congress counterpart.
Same is the case with Sanjay Awasthi from Arki. The party did not give him a ticket to contest much to the disappointment of thousands of the party workers and supporters.
On the other hand, the BJP shifted former Cabinet Minister Suresh Bharadwaj from the Shimla Urban constituency to the Kasupti seat where he lost to Anirudh Singh of the Congress.