Its election season again, with the announcement by the Election Commission that polling will take place on 12 November for the Himachal Pradesh Assembly. The results will be announced on 8 December. Also due are the Gujarat Assembly Elections, for which the dates are yet to be declared. The contest in both states is primarily between the incumbent BJP and the Congress, with AAP hoping to make something of a breakthrough. The politics is complex in both states and the outcome will be decided not just on the basis of Prime Minister Modi’s popularity but also constituency-wise local politics.
At the same time, it cannot be denied that the BJP has been consolidating its voter base in a very calculated manner, while the Congress appeal is largely based on the waning charisma of the Nehru-Gandhi family. The opposition’s hope in Himachal will be the ‘rotational’ nature of government formation. This, however, cannot be depended on too much as the Uttarakhand elections only recently broke this pattern. There are certain tall figures in the Congress party, primarily MP Pratibha Singh, the wife of six-time Chief Minister, the late Virbhadra Singh. There is factionalism based on area wise domination, which will need to be reconciled if the party is to put up a good fight. And, of course, it will all matter little if there is not enough anti-incumbency to build on.
Another worry in, both, Himachal and Gujarat is how much inroads AAP will make into the Congress votebank. It is very unlikely that, given the caste and regional loyalties, there will be significant transfer of votes, but it will mostly deplete the Congress challenge. It may be noted that, while the BJP has vigorously opposed AAP’s political maneuvering at every stage, the Congress has been quite immobile in its reaction, even though it has most to lose. In Punjab, it was the shift in Congress votes that made the difference, but no lessons seem to have been learned.
The impact of the two elections will also be considerable on national politics. Clear victories for the BJP will undoubtedly strengthen Prime Minister Modi’s hold at the Centre and build momentum for the next Lok Sabha contest. This is exactly why the BJP election machine has been working hard 24×7 to project its nationalist and development message. If hard work counts, the results can be easily predicted – but politics is obviously more than just that and the final picture will become known only on 8 December.