‘Both BJP and Congress are working hard to clinch the throne of Shimla’.


NEW DELHI: As voters in Himachal Pradesh get ready to choose their next Chief Minister on 12 November, both the ruling BJP and Congress are working round-the-clock to clinch the throne of Shimla. There are a total of 68 seats in the legislative Assembly. Results of the crucial election will be declared on 8 December. In the last 2017 elections, BJP won 44 seats and Congress was ousted from power with 21 seats, the CPI(M) won one seat.
The Sunday Guardian travelled from one Assembly segment to another to know the ground situation. Kullu, located on the banks of the Beas River, is witnessing stiff competition between incumbent Sunder Thakur of Congress and BJP’s Narottam Singh. In the last elections, BJP’s Maheshwar Singh was defeated by 1538 votes and this year, his ticket has been given to Narottam Singh. The third-party AAP has also fielded candidate Sher Singh Negi, but according to locals, the battle is between Congress and BJP.
In the Urban area of the constituency, people are more tilted towards Congress and in rural areas of Kullu, the majority of the people are seen supporting BJP. Kullu district covers huge areas and constituencies like Mandi, Kullu, Banjar and Anni are part of it. As the influx of tourists has increased in the area, the shortage of water has increased. While talking with The Sunday Guardian, a resident living near Shilha villages said: “The government has launched the Jal Nal Yojna, but unfortunately, piped water has still not reached me.” In Solan, the political battle is between the father-in-law and the son-in-law—from Congress Col Dhani Ram and from BJP Dr Rajesh Kashyap are in the race. According to locals, Congress is seen as strong in the rural front and in Solna city, people are rooting for BJP. The city is in dire need of parking because of the increase in tourist influx. The BJP has promised big parking space. Hospital in the Khandagaht area is one of the main issues for the people. Both parties are promising a hospital in the area.
On 3 November, AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal took a roadshow in Solan, he was accompanied by Punjab CM Bhagwant Maan. With this roadshow, AAP has kick-started its campaign, but according to locals, AAP has no ground. While travelling, this paper talked with many people in various constituencies to know the position of AAP on the ground. The majority of them said AAP has still not got any momentum on the ground. “AAP doesn’t have a cadre and their issues are also not touching the public,” Hiralal, a Dhaba owner in Mandi said. Currently, AAP is focusing on Gujarat and they have campaigned in HP on the backseat.
In Theog, one of the largest constituencies of the Shimla district, CPI (M)’s Rakesh Singha is incumbent and he has a stiff competition with Congress’ Kuldeep Rathore. There are various issues in the constituency of the Left leader. The bus stand is ready but still not opened for use. Locals also say that the work of the bypass has been slow and people in Theog are asking for an increase in staff in the hospital. But on the ground, Singha is seen as stronger. The Sunday Guardian talked with various locals to know why a Left leader is still popular among them. “Whenever you call, he will personally pick up your call,” Prem Kumar, an apple farmer said. Rakesh Singha’s reach is one of the reasons behind his electoral success. “During Covid, he was on the ground and he has donated all his salary to help people,” a resident of Thanedhar said. In Theog, eight people from both mainstream parties and independent candidates are in the race for MLA. Here also AAP is seen lagging behind CPI(M), Congress and BJP. A total of 7,881 polling stations for the upcoming Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh have been set up by the election commission. A total of 55,92,828 voters will decide the fate of 412 candidates in the state.