With few indicators going for the ruling party, it would be with extreme unease that the Congress submits its fate to the people in Himachal Pradesh on Wednesday, when voters in 65 assembly seats go for the last phase of polling.
Even as it banks on the development card, the anti-incumbency factor for which the state is notorious and the issues of price rise and unemployment are sure to weigh heavy on its mind.
The government claims to have provided subsidised rations to all categories over the past year, but people saw little respite from the steady rise in prices of almost all commodities.
The Congress hopes to do well in Shimla and Sirmour districts, but some of its senior leaders seem nervous. However, party leader and Union MoS for External Affairs Anand Sharma, who hails from Shimla, continues to be confident. “The Congress is going to form the government in Himachal again, as the people of the hill state have a special love for the party. Our governments are credited with raising the state to the top in the country, and people understand that we do it by taking everyone along.”
The Opposition BJP, on the other hand, is betting on anti-incumbency, hoping to gain from the “trend of change” that Himachal has kept up since 1985.
What it needs to fear is the fallout of the infighting. The party’s decision to declare former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal as the chief-ministerial candidate, however, may help the BJP consolidate its base in Hamirpur, Bilaspur and Una districts (where the party currently has six out of 14 seats).
BJP media cell convener Ashok Kapathia sums up the party mood: “There is a strong undercurrent against the government, though people may not speak up openly. We have seen it in all the elections held after the formation of the Congress government in 2003.”