Himachal Pradesh polls: Congress banks on anti-incumbency, Virbhadra’s legacy | Himachal-Pradesh Election News

NEW DELHI: Riding on the anti-incumbency factor and issues like price rise and unemployment, the Congress in Himachal Pradesh is banking on the legacy of party stalwart Virbhadra Singh to stage a comeback in the hill state.
The grand old party is, however, faced with internal rumblings and defections of some of its old timers in the recent past that may hurt its performance at the hustings.
Though the party has fielded some young leaders, including former chief minister Virbhadra Singh’s son Vikramaditya and ex-minister B D Bali’s son Raghubir Bali, it failed to field some of its youth leaders in the November 12 assembly polls.
Besides, the presence of a tall leader like Virbhadra Singh, who steered the party to many a victory, is missing this time, even though it is banking on his legacy as his wife Pratibha Singh is leading the campaign in the state elections.
The entry of Aam Aadmi Party in a conventionally direct fight between the Congress and the ruling BJP is also expected to queer the pitch for the grand old party which suffered heavily after the Arvind Kejriwal-led party entered the Delhi politics in 2013.
A section of Congress leaders say that AAP’s emergence in opposition space in Himachal has given an alternative to the voters fatigued by BJP rule.
The Congress has also made a host of promises to woo the voters in the state. These include restoration of old pension scheme, 300 units of free power, payment of Rs 1,500 to women and government jobs to all those working on outsourced employment, which are catching the attention of voters so far.
Himachal has seen alternate governments of the BJP and the Congress for many decades now and that is what the party has pinned its hopes on.
In 2017 assembly polls, the BJP bagged 44 seats and the Congress 21 in the 68-member assembly, with the ruling party getting a vote share of 48.8 per cent and the grand old party 41.7 per cent.
In 2012, the Congress had won the assembly polls bagging 36 seats and the BJP could get only 26.
An aggressive Congress is now attacking the BJP and alleging that the saffron party has nothing to showcase in the last five years and accusing chief minister Jairam Thakur of seeking votes in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi instead.
Congress Legislature Party leader Mukesh Agnihotri says the chief minister is seeking votes in the name of PM Modi, alleging that it is the “mafia” that has taken over in the state.
“This is not national but state elections and the chief minister should tell the people what he has done for the state. He has nothing to showcase and that is why he is depending on the prime minister to take him home in these elections,” he told PTI.
Agnihotri also dubs Thakur as a “non-performing” chief minister who has done nothing except chopper rides and ‘natis’ (traditional folk dances) during his five-year term.
The Congress is also accusing the BJP of doing nothing except event management and fake rhetoric and claims that it is the grand old party which developed the hill state since its inception.
The Congress is also claiming to have raised people’s issues all along the five years of the BJP rule inside and outside the assembly.
The party aggressively challenged the BJP on the floor of the House, which led to stalling of the assembly sessions many a time. Six Congress leaders, including Leader of Opposition, were slapped with cases during the year.
“There are no jobs while rising prices are affecting the people in the state. Besides, the mafia has taken over the BJP regime and people are moving away from them,” said a senior Congress leader.
Whether the Congress manages to improve its vote share this time will be difficult to say, but the grand old party is surely fighting it out in its bid to stage a comeback in this hill state and seek to restore its pristine glory nationally where it is now only in two states of its own.
Recently, two Congress MLAs Pawan Kajal and Lakhwinder Rana quit the party to join the BJP while a leader from Chamba, Harsh Mahajan, also joined the ruling party.
Kangra MLA Kajal, who was also the working president of the Himachal Congress, and Nalagarh MLA Rana have now been fielded by the BJP in the state elections.
However, the Congress also got a former BJP state unit president Khimi Ram on its side and has fielded him as a candidate in the upcoming polls.

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