The tiny hill state of Himachal, with its four Loksabha constituencies, may not count for much at the national level. But with local issues weighing on people’s minds, Wednesday’s voting would certainly be a test of the BJP government's popularity in the state after one-and-a-half years at the helm.
As always, its yet again a direct contest between the BJP and Congress- the BSP is contesting on all four seats and the CPM one, but their impact would be marginal, and limited to specific pockets.
Going by history, the ruling party in the state normally has had a clear edge in the Lok Sabha polls here. This time, however, the situation is fluid, as Congress stalwart and five times former chief minister Virbhadra Singh is contesting. He has replaced his wife and sitting MP Pratibha Singh at Mandi. Meanwhile, the BJP has changed its candidates in Shimla and Kangra.
Congress had won three seats — Kangra, Mandi and Shimla — in the 2004 polls, having come to power in the state only the year before. But this year, the Congress is sure of a win only in Mandi and the BJP is talking confident only of its traditional bastion Hamirpur, where Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal's MP son Anurag Thakur is seeking re-election. In Kangra and Shimla (reserved), both parties have their fingers crossed.
Though Dhumal doesn’t agree that Wedneday’s would be a test of his government’s popularity, the BJP is banking on the CM’s achievements and UPA’s failure to score here.
“It’s a test of the UPA’s performance, not the state government’s. The assembly polls are far off,” Dhumal said.
On the other hand, the Congress party is banking on the anti-incumbency factor against the BJP and the central government’s assistance to Himachal.