Himachal Pradesh chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal may be confident about returning to power with a bigger mandate but there is a growing fear within the circle of RSS-BJP state election managers that the forthcoming assembly elections may lead to a close verdict, akin to what happened in Uttarakhand last March.
Speaking to Hindustan Times, Dhumal said that 42 seats of the total 68 seats in the HP Assembly were in the ruling party's pocket because - according to him - there was no anti-incumbency against his government, and people were by-and-large satisfied with the progress parameters of the hill state. Reeling out figures, the CM said his government had not only spent 102% of the Rs.11,400 crore Five-Year-Plan outlay but also exceeded expectations in central-sponsored schemes such as the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan and MREGA.
BJP election managers are not as bothered about the performance of the Dhumal government as the rebel activity in Kangra and Mandi districts on account of poor ticket distribution. There are at least 10 BJP rebels in the fray, a result of the party trying to accommodate veteran leader Shanta Kumar and the Sangh Parivar. "Even the Congress has rebel candidates," said Dhumal, adding, "We are trying to make peace."
While Dhumal's son Anuraag Thakur is camping in his constituency - Hamirpur - to bag as many seats as possible, the BJP is banking on the twin issues of price rise and allegations of graft against Congress state chief Virbhadra Singh to win the polls.
With 10 more days to go to polls, the electorate is largely silent on its preferences because it does not want to get singled out if the BJP returns to power. The fact is that without any palpable wave in favour of either the BJP or the Congress, better election management in the run-up to the polls may just carry the day.