The Himachal Pradesh elections followed a similar trajectory like the Uttar Pradesh and Punjab polls: the incumbent government was voted out. In the 68-member assembly, the BJP wrested 41 seats, the Congress won 23 and the BSP got one.
Along with the anti-incumbency wave, other reasons which contributed to the Congress’s loss included the former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh’s style of functioning, intra-party rivalry and the wrong selection of candidates. In fact, the BJP managed to win the nine of the 16 seats in the crucial Kangra and six of the 10 seats in Mandi. It also swept districts like Solan and Kullu, preventing the Congress from retaining even a single seat.
If we keep these factors aside, there was one issue that had some impact in this election: the model of development in this Himalayan state. Though it may be early to say that ‘sustainable development’ has entered the lexicon of politicians and manifestoes, and results are directly linked to this, there is no doubt that these issues will become the rallying point in the future. In fact, in Kinnaur, the local community, which is opposing the Khab dam project on Sutlej, had fielded a candidate to drive home their point of view. During the pre-poll rallies, the BJP talked about cancelling all the hydropower MoUs, another controversial issue because of displacement and rehabilitation issues, signed by the Congress.
It also promised to cancel a ski village near Manali keeping in view the sentiments of the people. Even smaller parties like the CPI and the Lok Janshakti Party talked on similar lines. While the CPI promised to clear only small hydropower projects in state for local development from the 12 per cent share they get, the LJP promised a trans-Himalayan development organisation. And, the Congress promised to review the hydro projects they cleared in 2002.
So, are ‘green’ manifestoes here to stay? Yes, only if the voters force the parties to shift their focus. For parties though it will make sense to readjust their priorities and include conservation-based development and livelihood generation as their selling points.