BJP, Cong or AAP? Himachal Records Moderate Polling As Voters Brave The Cold to Elect New Govt

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After weeks of intensive poll campaigning and voting, the countdown has begun for D-day (results day) in Himachal Pradesh where the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is hoping change ‘riwaaz’ (tradition) and retain the power and Congress put up a spirited fight to make a comeback. Despite starting off well, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) lost its steam through the campaign, making it a two-party battle in the hill state.

Since 1985, the ‘Devbhoomi’ has not repeated any government and picked between the BJP and the Congress. Both parties have consistently received around 40% of the stable vote share (except in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls when the Congress vote share was reduced to 27 per cent). The outcomes have always been neck and neck.

ALSO READ: Who Will Win ‘Unpredictable’ Himachal Pradesh? News18 Decodes BJP, Congress Chances; Anti-incumbency & More

Key Parties

Besides BJP, AAP and Congress, other parties which are contesting the polls include the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India (CPI), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), and Rashtriya Devbhumi Party (RDP). The BJP, Congress, and AAP are contesting on all 68 seats, while CPIM is fighting on 11, CPI 1, BSP 53, and RDP 29.

Voter Turnout

More than 55 lakh voters in the state were eligible to decide the fate of 412 candidates in this high stakes political battle. As per the Election Commission, 72.72 per cent voter turnout was recorded in Himachal Pradesh. The counting of votes will be done on December 8.  The voter turnout in the 2017 polls was 76%.

Voting began at 8 am on a slow note with an Election Commission official saying only four per cent polling was registered till 9 am. It began to pick up as the morning progressed and the winter chill eased a bit.

ALSO READ: Will Himachal Change ‘Riwaaz’ This Time? A Look at the Hill State’s ‘Alternate Govt’ Trend

BJP vs Congress

The Congress has made a host of promises, including Rs 1,500 to all women every month under the ‘Har Ghar Lakshmi’ scheme, 300 units of free power and five lakh jobs in the next five years. It has also promised Rs 680-crore StartUp fund. The grand old party also tried to use the issue of the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) during the campaign to woo the significant employee segments, while also raising the issue of price rise.

The BJP countered it with the double engine government slogan, hoping to cash in on the development projects initiated by its government. The BJP has promised implementation of the Uniform Civil Code and eight lakh jobs in the state, besides scooties to college going girls and cycles to school girls belonging to weaker sections. The party is also hoping to get support from the significant women voter segment.

ALSO READ: ​In 55 Years, Only 40 Women Made It to Himachal Pradesh Assembly: Data | CNN-News18 Analysis

Intensive Poll Campaign

PM Narendra Modi has led the campaign from the front for the BJP, wrapping up his canvassing with a personal appeal to voters of the state, saying that every vote cast for the BJP symbol “lotus” will enhance his strength. It has also asked voters to change the “riwaaz” by re-electing the BJP, saying the “double engine” regime will continue to work for all-round development.

BJP president JP Nadda, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari, Smriti Irani and Anurag Thakur held a series of poll meetings apart from public outreach.

For Congress, general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra led the campaign and held several rallies.

ALSO READ: As Priyanka Leads the Charge, Cong Looks to Finally Fire Up Its Himachal Campaign in Rahul’s Absence

Political Bigwigs & Key Constituencies

CM Jairam Thakur is contesting from Seraj against Congress candidate Chetram Thakur. Congress has fielded legislature party leader Mukesh Agnihotri from the Haroli assembly segment against BJP’s state spokesperson Ram Kumar.

Congress election campaign in-charge and former state Congress chief Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu is facing BJP’s Vijay Agnihotri in Nadaun. In Dalhousie, former minister and Congress leader Asha Kumari is up against BJP’s DS Thakur and AAP’s Manish Sareen.

Vikramaditya Singh, son of former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, is testing waters again from Shimla Rural. BJP has fielded Ravi Mehta and AAP gave the ticket to Prem Thakur from the seat.

Congress pitted Harish Janartha in Shimla Urban to take on BJP’s ‘chaiwala’ candidate Sanjay Sood and AAP’s Chaman Rakesh Ajta.

Speaker of Himachal Pradesh Assembly Vipin Parmar, Congress leader Jagdish Sapheia and AAP candidate Ravinder Singh are in the fray from Sulah. Congerss MLA Rajinder Singh, who defeated former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal in the 2017 elections, is seeking to retain Sujanpur seat while former BJP chief Satpal Singh Satti is in the poll battle from Una.

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