Now that D-day has been announced, HT takes forward its cutting-edge election coverage by bringing you a ready reckoner on the Himachal assembly elections and previous ones too. All that you wanted to know about the electoral politics of your state -- facts, figures, personalities, perspective and what have you -- all packed into two pages. What will be the key factors? Who will be the main players in the game? What do the numbers say? These are the some of the questions we have answered -- in a nutshell.
Key players: They are the sheet anchors of their party’s electoral sweepstakes. Some are charismatic, a few are tireless campaigners, some are good at oratory and organisation, while some excel in election management and mobilisation. On test will be their attributes to swing the voter.
Prem Kumar Dhumal, 68
Prem Kumar Dhumal has emerged as the undisputable leader of the BJP in the state after veteran leader Shanta Kumar quit electoral politics.
The 2012 assembly elections are a big challenge for Dhumal and if the party manages to win another term, it will not only prove his leadership qualities, but also help him further consolidate his position in the party.
The BJP has projected the articulate leader as the chief ministerial candidate for a third term.
Shanta Kumar, 78
Old war horse
Though he has decided to quit electoral politics, Shanta Kumar will play a crucial role in the assembly polls.
His rivalry with Prem Kumar Dhumal is known in the state political circles.
The veteran leader has the ability to tilt political scales, especially in Kangra, where he enjoys a mass support.
If he campaigns for the party with full force, the BJP will get extra thrust in its efforts to recapture power.
Virbhadra Singh, 78
The aging patriarch and former chief minister, Virbhadra Singh, continues to be a force to reckon with in state politics.
Known for his fighting spirit, he is the quintessential comeback man and has emerged stronger every time he was ignored by the party high command whether it was in 1992 or in 2012.
It remains to be seen that how this fighter fares in arguably his last political battle.
Vidya Stokes, 85
The former president of Hockey India, Vidya Stokes was a strong contender for the chief ministerial post in 1992 assembly polls, but lost her election to an Independent.
In 2003 again, the doughty lady was a frontrunner for the post, but it was Virbhadra Singh who was made chief minister as he enjoyed support of maximum number of legislators.
The octogenarian leader is known in political circles for her proximity to the Gandhi family.
Maheshwar Singh, 63
The third force
Scion of the erstwhile Kullu state, Maheshwar Singh recently parted ways with the Bharatiya Janata Party due to sharp differences with chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal.
He is spearheading the Himachal Lokhit Party with a determined bid to turn state politics into a three-horse race.
In case the HLP manages to win two to four seats, the political scene will take an interesting turn.
When people of Himachal exercise their franchise, what are the factors that decide who they vote for? Though the Himachal election campaign has by and large focused on the issue of corruption besides mudslinging, the concerns of comman man have been kept at bay. A lowdown on the issues that will dominate the poll scene.
The issue of corruption dominates election scene in the state every time with principal players going all out to dub each other corrupt. While the Congress has been accusing the BJP leaders of amassing wealth by misusing their position, the ruling party has been targeting the opposition on 2G, coalgate and corruption and other scams at the Centre.
The finances are in a mess due to mounting debt, unproductive borrowing, huge salary and pension bills, ever-increasing interest payments and rising subsidies besides populism and flagrant fiscal profligacy. While the state depends on central grants, the government also lacks the political will to take new measures for additional resource mobilisation. The fiscal crisis is not the creation of the BJP regime; things tend to get worse after every successive government.
Increase in prices of essential commodities will also dominate the assembly elections. The decisions to hike diesel prices and putting a cap on LPG cylinders appear set to become election issues. As the ruling BJP is blaming the Centre for price rise, the Congress is charging the state government with imposing high rates of value added tax (VAT) in the state.
In the last assembly election, 32% of the seats – 22 assembly segments – had victory margin of less than 2,500 votes and 58% or 40 assembly segments were decided by less than 5,000 votes. Even a marginal shift in the vote share from one party to the other can have bearing on the poll outcome. Anti-incumbency does play a major role, which explains that why the state has been vacillating between the Congress and BJP every five years.
Benami land deals
The issue of land allotment to outsiders under Section 118 of Himachal Pradesh Tenancy and Land Reforms Act, 1972 will be another issue. While the Congress has been accusing the ruling party of misusing the provision and selling off state’s rights to outsiders, the BJP is blaming the previous government for the mess.
Chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal claims that the state government had made efforts for inclusive development and time-bound delivery of citizen-centric services to public. The government has claimed a lot, but under delivered. Himachal Pradesh Public Service Guarantee Act, 2011, was a step in the right direction, though.
FACTFILE | Himachal’s political regions
Women Power in the House
In 1977, one woman was elected out of the nine who contested the assembly elections. Thirty years later, in 2007, five women among 25 contestants made it to the House. Thirty-one women contested the 2003 polls and four were elected. In 1998, six women were elected out of 25, which was the best performance by the fairer sex in Himachal assembly polls.
Youngest CM and longest tenure
Shanta Kumar holds the distinction of being the youngest chief minister of Himachal. He was 43 when first elevated to the top post on June 22, 1977. YS Parmar served the state for 18 years, making him the longest serving CM. Parmar became CM for the first time on March 8, 1952. Virbhadra Singh is the second longest serving CM, who remained at the helm of affairs for 17 years. Singh was elevated to top post on April 8, 1983.
First non-congress government
In 1977, the first non-Congress government was formed in the state. Janata Party won the assembly elections with a thumping majority. Janata Party had contested on all 68 seats and won 53, while congress contested on 56 seats and managed to win nine seats. Other parties in the fray were CPI and CPM. CPI contested on eight and CPM on three seats, but couldn’t win a single seat. However, six Independent candidates made it to the state assembly. A total 330 candidates contested the election and security deposit of 183 was forfeited. Nine women contested the election, but only Shyama Sharma of Janata Party was elected.
In the 2007 assembly elections, of the total 68 MLAs, 26 had criminal cases pending against them. The BJP topped the list with 22 legislators, Congress at the second place with three, besides an Independent, according to the election watchdog, Association for Democratic Reforms. At 13, BJP president Satpal Singh Satti had the highest number of criminal cases against him.
Education and age profile
In the outgoing Vidhan Sabha, Vidya Stokes (Congress) is the oldest legislator at 85, while Neeraj Bharti, 34, of the Congress is the youngest. Of the 68 MLAs, eight are matriculate or under matric. While Sohan Lal (Congress) is Class 8 pass and is the lowest qualified, Dr Ram Lal Markanda (BJP) and Subhash Chand Manglate (Congress) are the most qualified with doctorate degree. Thirteen MLAs hold master’s degree, of which nine belong to the BJP and four to the Congress.
Himachal’s electoral history had been dominated by the Congress and BJP. There has been only one coalition government – in 1998 – in the wake of the fractured mandate. At that time, the coalition between the BJP and Himachal Vikas Congress (HVC) completed a full term. The breakaway faction from the Congress formed the HVC, which was led by former union minister Sukh Ram. The BJP and Congress had the difference of only one seat and none had the absolute majority. The HVC decided to go with the BJP as coalition partner. The BJP formed the first coalition government in the state under Prem Kumar Dhumal.
Since 1947, Himachal Pradesh has remained under the President’s rule on two occasions. The longest time the President rule was imposed was from December 15, 1992, to December 3, 1993 in the wake of the dismissal of the Shanta Kumar government. After the demolition of Babri Masjid, the Centre imposed the President’s rule in all BJP-ruled states. Earlier, the President’s rule was imposed for about two months from April 30, 1977, to June 22, 1977.
House strength over the years
After the Independence, Himachal had legislative assembly of a part-C state from 1952 to 1956 with 43 members. With the inception of the first legislative assembly in 1962-67, the number of members went up to 58. The number of MLAs was increased to 64 during the second legislative assembly from 1967-72. Since the state attained full statehood in 1971, the number of MLAs was raised to 68.
Highest polling station
Himachal Pradesh's highest polling station, Chafk Batori village of Chamba district, which is at an altitude of 16,000 feet. Earlier, a booth at Hikkim (15,500 feet) in Lahaul and Spiti district was considered the highest polling station in the state. Whereas the Sullah assembly segement has 87091 voters, which is the highest number of voters and Lahual-Spiti assembly segment has lowest number of voters with total 22077 voters. During the 2007 assembly elections total polled votes percentage was 71.61 %. However assembly constituencies in the district have registered highest and lowest voters turnout in the state, Nalagarh has highest voters' turnout with 83.18 % and Solan had lowest voters' turnout with 61.9 %.
Lok Raj Party was the first regional party formed in the state in 1967. The party was headed by former speaker TS Negi, who formerly headed Samyukt Vidhayak Dal. JBL Khachi was another leader in the party. In the 1972 assembly elections, LRP put up candidates in 16 out of 68 constituencies and won two seats. The party received 44,067 votes (5.02% of total votes).
Thirteen Congress MLAs of the outgoing Vidhan Sabha have net worth running into crores. The BJP has six, while two Independents have assets worth crores. Lakhwinder Singh Rana of the Congress topped the list with Rs. 36.34 crore net worth followed by BJP’s Khimi Ram with Rs. 4.66 crore.
Oldest Traditional Rivals
There are many traditional rival in Himachal Pradesh . Vidhan Sabha Speaker Tulsi Ram and his traditional Rival Thakur Singh Bharmouri has consted five times against each other. Tulsi Ram had won the last elections with mere margin of 16 votes.
Parties that matter
Since 1977, the Congress and BJP have dominated the political scene in Himachal by way of rotating power. But the 2012 assembly polls can see a departure from normal, if the Himachal Lokhit Party lives up to its promise and gets a leg up from the other parties like NCP, Left, BSP and Trinamool Congress to make the poll battle a three-horse race.
The party has ruled the state for most of the period since 1947. Its dominance can be gauged from the fact that the party had won all but four assembly elections. With its pan-India presence and secular credentials, the Congress cuts a wide swathe both in rural and urban belts of the state. But its prime constituencies comprise the interior and upper hill areas, where till now no other party had been able to make inroads. Its main chunk of the votes comprises Dalits, tribes and minority communities. Internal party conflict can mar its chances, though. Conflicts are of such grievous intensity that the party depends on the high command for every decision.
Being a major player in the state politics and the main opposition to the Congress, the BJP has come a long way. The party had carved out its place in the state politics and has provided stable government for two terms, despite the stigma of being a ‘government for two-and-half-years only’ attached to it. Breaking the regional bias and playing the development card, the party seems confident of securing another term. But the path is strewn with obstacles, as it is facing charges of corruption from within and outside. The two poles in the party could also prove detrimental for it.
Himachal Lokhit party
Cobbled up together by Maheshwar Singh, who heads the Himachal Lokhit Party (HLP), this pre-poll alliance has HLP, CPM and CPI as constituents. While the HLP is still an electorally untested entity, both Left parties are hoping to make their presence felt by riding on their success in the Shimla municipal corporation elections. Maheshwar Singh is trying to make the Morcha a formidable third front in Himachal’s bipolar politics.
The state has a fair amount of Scheduled Caste population -- roughly 25%. Yet BSP, which champions the cause of Dalits, has failed to find its political space. Its vote share was constrained to about 7% in the last assembly elections. The party is still weighing its options and remains unclear whether to go it alone or forge an alliance. It has the potential to play a spoilsport in case there is no clear wave for any party, much to the worries of the Congress.
NCP, Trinamool and Independents
While the Nationalist Congress Party and Trinamool Congress lack party base in the state, Independents have been playing their part since long. The NCP and Trinamool do not have clarity on their candidates or are also not sure if they would enter into a pre-poll alliance. Both are seemingly not in a position to make electoral gains. The rebel candidates of the Congress and BJP, who fought the election as Independents after being denied tickets, can also eat into respective parties’ vote share. During the 2007 elections, three such rebel candidates from the BJP made their way to the assembly as Independents.