As politics in the cool environs of Himachal Pradesh heat up with the Election Commission sounding the poll bugle, has the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) managed an edge over its seemingly somnolent rival Congress?
That's what it appeared to be with the Election Commission announcing Wednesday that the state would vote for a new assembly on Nov 4. The BJP is ahead of its arch rival as far as ticket allocation and campaigning at the grassroots level are concerned.
While chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal has already carried out a whirlwind tour of the entire state before the polls were announced, the Congress is yet to activate itself.
Having taken a lead by declaring party candidates for 45 of the 68 assembly constituencies, the BJP is almost ready to release a list of the remaining candidates.
"The second list will be announced any time now. We are doing another survey on some of the seats (to know the candidates' winning prospects). It's (announcing candidates) just a matter of days now," Dhumal told IANS.
The impression going around is that the Congress is yet to shake off its stupor. Forget about beginning electioneering, the main opposition party in the state is still mulling over the names of its candidates.
Congress leaders said the ticket screening committee headed by Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit cleared candidates for 46 seats Wednesday, but the final list would be announced only after the central election committee meets Oct 6.
For almost a fortnight, Pradesh Congress Committee president Virbhadra Singh, fighting a battle of survival, has been camping in New Delhi, lobbying for tickets for his favourites.
"The process to clear the names is in the final stage. The party doesn't want to create any confrontation in the ticket distribution," said Virbhadra Singh.
"Virbhadra Singh was more active before his name was cleared for the top post. After he became the party's state chief (in August), he seems to have gone into hibernation. Other senior leaders are also totally missing from the scene," said a party leader, who did not want to be identified.
"The Congress' delay in announcing candidates will play into the hands of the rebels, who will cause more damage as the polling date comes closer. As the BJP cleared the names for most of the seats well in time, they have more time to pacify the rebels," the leader said.
With less than a month's time left for the polls, the Congress really has a tough road ahead, he added.
In the 2007 elections to the 68-member assembly, the BJP won 41 seats, the Congress 23, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) one and Independents three. The BSP legislator later joined the BJP.
Votes for the election will be counted Dec 20.