Shimla, Oct 22
Mohan Lal Verma
We are in mid of the most critical assembly general election, which may change not only the perception of poltical discourse in the state but the entire of North India. Around 55 lakh electorate may set new trends in the polity on December 8, 2022, with the vote counting.
Yes, this poll is being held in a post-Shanta Kumar, Virbhadra Singh and P K Dhumal era. None is there, this time to help or spell doom on any candidates.
Virbhadra Singh, who departed from this world last year, was considered a mascot in public life. His grace was enough to get a meteoric rise, and his wrath could spell doom. During this poll, his charisma of winning the hearts of the electorate will not be found.
Putting light on two-time former Chief minister Shanta Kumar and Dhumal, the founders of BJP in the state. The former saw the seed of the party, which became popular in the masses in new Himachal as the Janta party and as BJP later. Party rising on the agenda of changing Congress’s one-party rule for decades, inflation and Hindutva succeeded in coming to power. Yet, the charisma did not last long because Shanta Kumar went head-on with employees and apple growers, which helped Congress during the mid-eighties and gave new leadership to BJP. The good leadership of Prem Kumar Dhumal emerged at the end of the 20Th century. The rise of the BJP was attributed to coalition politics and the fragmentation of Congress due to increasing ambitions. Still, the rise of the BJP under Prem Kumar Dhumal’s regime also set new trends like development politics, a rise of corruption and scams in the state and the beginning of vendetta politics. Prem Kumar Dhumal, sidelined by the Modi-Shah-Nadda trio, succeeded in expanding right-wing politics to every nook and corner of the hill state, which is geographically large but small in demography. It was Dhumal who changed the equation of polity, and today BJP could dream of winning in all 68 Assembly ending the myth of Congress bastion.
Unfortunately, things are folding back to their original position as Congress and BJP could not have similar leadership. On the thresholds of the 2022 state election, no charismatic leadership seems to be making a difference. A political commentator says that the trap of election has already taken a heavy toll on the ruling in the 2022 bye-election. Adding, it may not be changed by the trio of Modi-Shah-Nadda as Rahul Gandhi Bharat Jodo Yatra is equally getting the response. They said that the nine visits of the Prime Minister in the last seven or eight years failed to get a fair deal from the people of the state. The way BJP top leadership keeps top state leadership in the departure lounge or senior party clubs speaks a lot about how things are folding in the BJP galleries. It not only distanced itself from the party well-wishers but also abused them by hurling unpleasant things at them without realising their sacrifices. Virbhadra Singh’s politics may have been much bold and more drastic. Still, his political rival in own never denied his creative role for party and state. Comparing, one can find that the BJP leadership’s behaviour with its veterans is not so much of a fair deal.
Chipping into it, Jai Ram Thakur, heading the torch of victory, seemed not gracious enough to owe the role of Dhumal. To understand Shanta’s politics, he, perhaps, might be too young.
The BJP is being run and controlled by the RSS and ABVP think tanks, who are busy with self-glorification as if the nation is free from all odds. The inherent nature of the Himachal Pradesh BJP is less oriented towards right-wing communal politics or majority politics but is progressive like Congress, with a slight tinge of idealistic socialism.
Yet, thanks to the level of education, literacy, the role of mass media and communication technology which didn’t carry away its youth blindly towards any ideology. A key factor in H.P is that after five years, people changed governments if they did not like them.
This time, new faces are coming out to fight elections. It has created a leadership vacuum, but with the hope, that good leadership would likely take birth soon. State politics cannot reform at such a pace, but it is a level playing field for both sides.
The hope for the third front remained bleak, but one could not deny triangular combat in most of the seats. The recent survey by the Association of Democratic Reform (ADR) says that on about 20 seats difference in winning margin could remain less than 2000. Another astonishing fact in the ADR highlight is that 20 per cent of the electoral might not turn to vote as they couldn’t identify their leader or MLAs. Dr O P Bhureta, the state convenor of ADR, said that when they asked voters to name their present MLA, many gave the wrong replies.
Would Himachal Pradesh set new trends in elections this time? Political commentators are enthusiastic.
The hill state is going to participate in the 14th general assembly elections. State also witnessed the telecom revolution, and mobile phone density with data connection has increased substantially. The role of canvassing and garnering votes is taken a new paradigm. The rural, less economical, well-off, and far-flung areas witness high turnout rather than the urban, populated and economical well-off regions of the state. The turnout of women is more than men in most of the assemblies. Political parties are always in search of identifying them to booth-level workers who introduce candidates to general voters. 80 to 90 per cent of voters like candidates with high public integrity and a straight face. The state is not away from faction politics as every outfit is virtually split within. Perhaps, the voters know these equations and will also vote accordingly.