While counting on Thursday will decide the fate of 459 candidates, Vidhan Sabha elections in Himachal Pradesh this time were different in many ways. The delimitation of assembly segments not only changed the political contours of the state but also is poised to throw up many surprises.
Many political bigwigs lost their traditional seats in the delimitation. Chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal lost his traditional Bamson assembly segment and fought election from the to Hamirpur seat. Sitting Hamirpur legislator Urmila Thakur of BJP shifted to Sujanpur, from where chief minister's one-time close aide Rajinder Rana is also in the fray as an Independent.
Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee chief Virbhadra Singh, who had contested five elections from Rohru seat, this time contested from Shimla Rural seat after Rohru was reserved for Scheduled Caste. Former health minister Rajiv Bindal, who had been contesting from Solan, shifted to Nahan.
Irrigation and public health minister Ravinder Singh Ravi this time contested from Dehra, since his traditional Thural constituency was abolished in the delimitation exercise.
In Una, after Chintpurni constituency was resreved for Scheduled Caste, both Congress and BJP candidates had to move to Gagret.
This is for the first time that the hill state saw presence of a number of national-level parties which are trying to gain a foothold in the state. Apart from Bahujan Samaj Party, Nationalist Congress Party, Trinamool Congress, Samajawadi Party, Lok Janshakti Party, Bharat Swabiman Party had contested the elections. Himachal Lokhit Party, which had contested election jointly with left parties (CPI and CPM) has added a new dimension to the election. Most of the disgruntled leaders of the Congress and the BJP contested elections on HLP tickets, making the contest multi-cornered in many constituencies.
For the first time in 19 years, elections in Himachal Pradesh were held in a single phase.
In 2007, elections were held in two phases, where voting in the tribal areas had taken place on November 14 and the rest on December 19. Long wait for results had given anxious moments to political parties. Also, the functioning of the government had come to a grinding halt for almost two months.
Much is at stake for the leaders of the Congress and the BJP. A victory for BJP will elevate the political stature of chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal. BJP's vctory will bring Dhumal in the league of chief ministers of other BJP ruled states-Shiv Raj Chauhan in Madya Pradesh, Narender Modi in Gujarat and Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh-who have successfully repeated the government.
The outcome is all the more crucial for the Congress since drubbing in Himachal will lower the party's morale at a time when it is preparing to face Lok Sabha elections.