For the past seven weeks, political leaders in the state have remained trapped in anxiety over the results of the assembly elections. With less than a week left for the outcome of one of most keenly contested Vidhan Sabha elections, amidst subzero temperature, the state capital is gradually getting abuzz with activities.
After Thursday's snowfall in Jakhu hills, on Friday in the wee hours the town again experienced fresh spell of snow that brought drastic decline in the minimum temperature. The minimum temperature that was recorded at 5.9 degrees Celsius dropped to 0 degree Celsius, while the maximum temperature 9.5 degrees Celsius rose to 13 degrees Celsius.
The prolonged gap between the polling and counting of votes had brought lull in the state as there was hardly any work being carried in the wake of continuing election code of the conduct. Majority of the leaders in the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) remained out of the state.
While the BJP leaders, including chief minister Prem Kumar, chose to campaign in Gujarat for Narender Modi, the Congress remained busy in backdoor lobbying in New Delhi. The chief minister's loyalist former health minister Rajeev Bindal and irrigation and public health minister Ravinder Singh Ravi toured Gujarat during the elections.
Call it overconfidence or their calculations, the rival groups in the Congress were engaged in lobbying in Delhi. Five-time chief minister Virbhadra Singh, who is also a Lok Sabha member, camped in Delhi to attend the Parliament session, while his supporters, particularly the party nominees in the Vidhan Sabha elections, shuttled between Delhi and their respective constituencies to repeatedly assure Singh that they were ardently by his side. There were many nominees chose to travel to South India for killing their anxiety. "I spent 10 days in Kerala undergoing the traditional Ayurveda treatment. Whether I win or lose the elections, I need to keep myself fit for the future politicking," said a Congress leader who spent a week in Kerala.
But on Friday, it appeared that the lull in the state was gradually fading away. Political leaders walked from one corner of the mall road to the other end just discussing the prospect of the political parties. "I thought I will meet my friends on the Mall road today," says BJP legislator from Kinnaur Tejwant Negi who felt the heat of the rebel candidate apart from the rival camp.
Leaders from different parts of the state were visible on the Mall road. "I have come here with my friends and will remain in Shimla till the results are declared," says Congress spokesman Kewal Singh Pathania who was the Congress nominee from Shahpur in the last assembly elections. Pathania was denied ticket this time to accommodate former tourism minister Vijay Singh Mankotia.
Chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal who was in the state capital flew to Delhi. Dhumal is likely to return by Saturday evening. The state secretariat that almost wore a deserted look all these days was agog with election discussion. The babus remained busy discussing the prospect of the Congress and BJP.
"We hope to improve with attendance from Monday onwards," chief secretary Sudripta Roy told Hindustan Times.