Himachal Elections: Voting ends, BJP wants to form the government for the second time in a row, Congress hopes to return to power

New Delhi: Voting for 68 assembly seats of Himachal Pradesh ended today at 5 pm. Those who have already reached inside the polling stations will still be allowed to vote. In 2017, the state recorded 74.6 percent voter turnout, which was the highest in previous years. The results will be out on December 8.
The ruling BJP, which has fielded Jairam Thakur as the face of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been insisting that “continuity” is essential for progress. The party argues that a “dual engine” i.e. a single-party government at the state and center will ensure that there is no disruption in work.
On the other hand, Congress says that this election is about local issues. The party hopes that the four-decade tradition of not voting for the ruling party will be repeated this time as well. The party has been facing a leadership crisis since the death of Virbhadra Singh. The party says it will return to power as its seat-wise ticket distribution is “much better than before”. Virbhadra Singh’s wife Pratibha Singh heads the state unit and her son Vikramaditya Singh is among the candidates.
The biggest problem for the BJP is the 21 rebels. The election is also a prestige issue for the party’s national president JP Nadda, who himself hails from Himachal. He was once a minister in the state under Prem Kumar Dhumal. Dhumal is among those who are not contesting the elections.
The BJP has fielded Union ministers and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, seen as the aggressive face of its Hindutva ideology, to campaign in Himachal. Meanwhile, Priyanka Gandhi held rallies for the Congress, while her brother Rahul Gandhi did not see fit to leave his ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ for the campaign. Mallikarjan Kharge, the first non-Gandhi president of the Congress in 24 years, also campaigned in Himachal.
The Congress has started a low-key campaign in PM Modi’s stronghold of Gujarat, which is due to go to polls next month. The party has failed to win or make a significant impact in nine states in nearly two years. The polls come ahead of elections in nine states next year, including the belt states of Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, where the Congress has chief ministers.
Earlier this year, the Congress lost power to the Aam Aadmi Party in Himachal’s neighboring state of Punjab. The Aam Aadmi Party is also contesting in Himachal, but apparently its focus was on Gujarat.
The Congress’ promise to restore the pre-2004 pension scheme has become a major electoral issue as the state has over 2 lakh government employees. The BJP has promised a uniform civil code and 8 lakh jobs in the state. On the other hand, on pension, the party says “if anyone will revive the old scheme, it will be the BJP”.
Apart from Chief Minister Jairam Thakur from Siraj, the main candidates include Minister Suresh Bhardwaj from Kasampatti, Congress Legislature Party Leader Mukesh Agnihotri from Haruli, Vikramaditya Singh from Shimla Rural and Congress Campaign Committee Chief Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu.
The Election Commission has set up 7,884 polling stations, including three in remote areas, for polling from 8 am to 5 pm. The highest booth was built for 52 voters at an altitude of 15,256 feet at Tashigung in Kaza in Lahaul Spiti district.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the voter turnout was 72.4%. While in the 2017 assembly elections, this number was 74.6 percent, which is the highest since 2003.


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