By RP NAILWAL
Dehradun, 10 Nov: With just two days to go for the assembly election in the adjoining hill state of Himachal Pradesh, electioneering has come to a standstill today. While the top leaders of the main contenders, Congress and Bhartiya Janata Party, have made their last-ditch efforts to garner support for their respective candidates, the voters are maintaining a studied silence.
The key campaigners for the saffron brigade have been Prime Minister Narendra Modi, party Chief JP Nadda, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, on the other hand, the Congress also fielded leaders like Priyanka Gandhi and party Chief Ministers Ashok Gehlot of Rajasthan and Bhupesh Patel of Chhattisgarh. Interestingly, both parties adopted contrasting strategies throughout the long drawn campaign.
Once again the theme, tone, tenor of the overall electioneering in the hills was set by the saffron party with the Modi charisma looming large. The sulking Congress remained glued to the omissions and commissions of the ruling BJP Government. Against the massive BJP campaign, the Congress leaders were seen time and again harping on the poor performance of the ruling government in not resolving some outstanding issues.
Congress is desperate to return to power and its campaign exhibited that substantially, if not in full measure. The party leaders missed the presence of Rahul Gandhi, who is busy with the ongoing Bharat Jodo Yatra.
The rival party leaders addressed scores of public meetings, making fresh promises in the last few days across the rugged terrains of the hill state, where it is not so easy to move around.
But, all said and done, it is very difficult to gauge the public mood at this point in time. While the pollsters are showing a swing in favour of the saffron brigade, it’s really very difficult to reach any definite conclusion at this point in time as the hill folk are apparently maintaining a studied silence.
The reasons are very clear. The party rebels in the ruling BJP and the absence of some key leaders such as Prem Kumar Dhumal and Shanta Kumar as important leaders has affected the image of the ruling party. Some unresolved key issues by the incumbent party such as those pertaining to the mega apple industry, old pension scheme and unemployment among youth can weigh heavily with the voters. Other local problems have also found expression in the Congress Party and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) campaigns. Interestingly, AAP suddenly slowed its campaign surge knowing well that its poll prospects are not so bright in the hill state. It was in a way a repetition of what AAP did in the last Uttarakhand election, where it was not able to secure even one seat.
Throughout the electioneering, BJP and Congress have adopted contrasting strategies. While the BJP persistently highlighted the achievements of “double engine-ki–sarkar”, the Congress Party have left no stone unturned in projecting the omissions and commissions of the ruling BJP government. The issue of corruption also hogged the headlines in a section of the media. In some political circles, this political battle is stated to be a close fight between the two main rivals.
Even though the electioneering has come to an end, the political atmosphere in the hill state continues to be fully surcharged for the nearly seventy lakh population of the tiny state with some fifty-nine lakh voters who are scheduled to take part in the 12 November polling process. The poll outcome scheduled to be announced on 8 December can hardly be predicted at this point in time.