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Himachal election results 2017: Fresh breeze blowing in the hills

Statesman News Service | Vepa Rao |

This peaceful hill state has opted once again for its two-and-a-half decade formula of putting the BJP and the Congress in power alternately.

It has re-confirmed it this time by voting out the ruling Congress party and passing the mantle to the BJP. It is not necessarily a question of anti-incumbancy.

One may call it the political wisdom of the hill people in not allowing one party to rule for more than 5 years at a time and deepening its own vested interests.

Long before the elections were announced, most political pundits in the state placed the chances of a BJP victory very high, irrespective of what the BJP called a “Modi wave “.

Except for minor grumblings about the Virbhadra government not being strong and decisive enough in its administration during the current tenure, there were no major complaints against it.

No doubt, the gang-rape and murder of a school girl in Kothkhai that sent shock waves in the region recently (which was  decidedly mishandled by an over- confident Congress government), there were no major issues that could rock it this way.

The CBI’s investigation of the disproportionate assets case also had a question mark over it because the Centre, in public perception, was singling out the Congress Chief Minister for its political gains.

On the other hand, demonetisation, GST and the rising prices did raise the debate over Narendra Modi’s “declining popularity”. The factors were all poised against both the BJP and the Congress in equal measure.

This had led to speculation that it would be a neck-and-neck race between BJP and Congress and some media outfits even predicted a photo finish. But as in every Assembly poll so far, the Himachali voter had kept his counsel to himself and the results show that he had had a clear and decisive mind in favour of BJP well before the polls.

However, the victory margins in most constituencies have been somewhat narrow and suggest some skepticism in the voter’s mind more as a result of the BJP leadership holding back the announcement of its chief ministerial candidate till the last leg of the campaign.

The uncertainity over the Central government’s economic policies and promises also was like a cloud hanging over the BJP’s campaign.

Whether the Centre would keep Modi and Amit Shah’s promises and be vastly generous to this small state struggling to develop, was also a doubt haunting the public mind. But it was also balanced by the hope of the Centre backing the state fully in case of its party’s victory in the state. Himachal has now given BJP its best chance to prove its mettle in the state.

Above all, these elections have perhaps ushered in a new era in the political culture of the state.

Many giants have fallen by the wayside including Cabinet ministers like Kaul Singh, Sudhir Sharma of the Congress and the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate (who was chief minister twice before) Prem Kumar Dhumal and the state party president Satpal Satti.

Whether Dhumal will still be made chief minister on the plea that the elections were fought under his leadership is a moot point.

He was shifted from his traditional constituency of Bamson and given the present Sujanpur constituency against his will and he hardly had time to campaign.

The party has a precedent of Arun Jaitley being made a minister with multiple portfolios despite losing Lok Sabha elections. But then, democracy within political parties of any shade and hue has become a mockery  and the will of the supremos alone prevails.

The affinity between Dhumal and his supremos Modi and Shah is reportedly not firm enough for such decisions in his favour but one never knows. Of course, the other precedent was Manmohan Singh being made the Prime Minister of India without winning elections.

While the new Vidhan Sabha to be constituted shortly will benefit from  the experience  and skills of a few stalwarts like Virbhadra Singh, there will be  many new entrants full of enthusiasm and optimism to take the state to new heights of development. A fresh political breeze has begun to blow in these picturesque hills.