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Himachal polls-2017: Third front a big no for HP voters

No third party could achieve a major success for almost two decades as power changed hands between the Congress and BJP.

india Updated: Oct 22, 2017 16:11 IST
Gaurav Bisht and Naresh K Thakur
Gaurav Bisht and Naresh K Thakur
Hindustan Times, Shimla/Dharamshala
Third front,Himachal polls,Himachal Pradesh
Communist Party of India (Marxist) workers arrange their party flags ahead of the assembly polls at the party office in Shimla on Saturday. Left parties, with a presence in some pockets of Himachal, have failed to leave a mark in the state politics. (Deepak Sansta/HT)

With two-party system ingrained in Himachal politics for long, leaving almost no scope for any third alternative, voters in the hill state have traditionally alternated between Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (formerly known as Bharatiya Jan Sangh) for the past five decades.

The third option emerging in the state’s political scene only served the purpose of demurring. Attempts were indeed made to throw in a third front but the parties — national or regional — which tried, failed to meet the expectations.

Unsuccessful attempts

Lok Raj Party (LRP) was the first regional party formed in the state in 1967. Headed by former speaker Thakur Sen Negi, LRP had another tall leader JBL Khachi. In the 1972 assembly elections, LRP had put up candidates in 16 out of 68 constituencies and won two seats only to be disbanded by the time next elections were held.

No third party could achieve a major success for next almost two decades as power changed hands between the Congress and BJP. Come 1990 election and Janata Dal (JD) emerged on the political landscapes. Vijai Singh Mankotia, who had alienated himself from Congress, led JD to a big victory, winning 11 seats in a pre-poll alliance with BJP, which got absolute majority with 46 seats.

However, the coalition government was dismissed in the aftermath of Babri demolition in 1992. By the 1993 assembly elections, Mankotia was back in Congress and JD faded away into oblivion.

Next to try his hands was Congress veteran Pandit Sukh Ram in a bid to give a third alternative. After parting ways with Congress, he founded Himachal Vikas Congress (HVC) in 1997.

HVC won five seats in 1998 and entered into post-poll alliance with BJP helping the saffron party to form government which was one seat short of majority. Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party forayed into Himachal in the 2008 election but could only secure one seat and its lone legislator Sanjay Chaudhary later joined the BJP. The 2012 election told a similar tale. But this time, BJP witnessed a split.

Maheshwar Singh, the former president of saffron party, with other disgruntled leaders formed Himachal Lokhit Party (HLP) but won only one seat. The party merged with the BJP last year.

Little left for Left

Left parties — Communist Party of India (CPI) and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) that have a considerable base in few pockets of Himachal — too failed to leave a mark in the state politics. Only four left candidates have been able to make it to the state assembly since 1967. Last to win from CPI-M was Rakesh Singha in 1993, who was unseated after his conviction in a murder case in 1996.

Why no to third front?

Political analysts feel there are several deep-rooted reasons for the failure of any non-Congress, non-BJP alternative to emerge. Primarily, there is not a single instance in Himachal where a new face — like AAP in Delhi and Punjab — which is not recognised with any of the two parties, has walked into the political sphere and formed a party.

All those who made attempts either separated from the dominating parties or offered nothing new to the people. “Be it TS Negi, Vijai Singh Mankotia, Sukh Ram or Maheshwar Singh. They all left their parent party for personal interests and came back after sometime,” says a poll analyst.

“There is a little space for any third party in Himachal. The electors here are politically smart which can be attributed to the high literacy rate and increased per capita income. Moreover, there are no caste factors and minority votes which can influence the electoral,” says Harish Thakur, head of political science department in Himachal Pradesh University. “Another main factor in Himachal Pradesh politics has been the strong employees’ force. There are around 2.35 lakh employees who have always wielded influence and successive governments have always appeased them,” he adds.

As far as left parties are concerned, he says, they have failed to consolidate their strength despite leading several farmers’ and labourers’ movements.

First Published: Oct 22, 2017 16:10 IST