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Why did BJP win Himachal Pradesh elections?

December 18, 2017


The election results of the big battle of the veterans are out, and the winner is P K Dhumal of the BJP. The party win does not come as a surprise as the state has a record of alternating between the Congress and BJP since 1990, barring President’s Rule between 15 December 1992 – 03 December 1993.

Besides anti-incumbency favouring BJP, several crucial factors went in the party’s favour. Aspiration and inspiration were the triggers that fired the youth. Since 2012, there has been a significant increase in young voters who have voted for the first time in these elections.

Since 2012, higher penetration of smartphones and televisions across the state has contributed in raising aspirations of the youth, who now have greater access to information and are, therefore, more aware. This crucial segment views Narendra Modi favourably and has voted in large numbers in BJP’s favour.

83-years old Virbhadra Singh has been mired in controversy and was left pretty much in the lurch by the Congress high command. He took it upon himself to fight back but after five years of slow progress, his active campaigning was not enough to inspire confidence in the youth, and for that matter, all ages that came out to vote. It reflects in areas where Congress had a stronger base.

Himachal Pradesh was a lost case for the Congress even before the fight began, and much before the exit polls came out with their predictions of a landslide victory for the BJP. That’s why Rahul Gandhi decided to focus on Gujarat, where the stakes were much higher and where even a small gain in seats over 2012 will show progress for the beleaguered party.

The fact that almost no senior Congress leader went out to fight for Virbhadra Singh gave a message of no confidence to the people, who in any case had formed their conclusions. 18 December was a mere formality.

Lack of jobs, low investment in infrastructure, rising prices and corruption, all dogged the Congress. Virbhadra Singh had little to show by way of action in the last five years and wasn’t in any position to offer much for the next five. In fact, he may not have fought these elections at all were it not to establish his son Vikramaditya Singh as heir to his legacy.

This brings focus to the BJP. Amit Shah was very clear at the beginning of the year that Himachal Pradesh had to be won and he worked with P.K. Dhumal and his party cadres to set up a well-planned tightly monitored campaign.

BJP pumped in funds to initiate a strategy that included chopper hopping, technology, social media, on-site televisions and colourful visual communication. The party’s effort was strongly supported by Amit Shah and the PM himself, who aggressively backed Dhumal to lead BJP back to power.

The Congress, on the contrary, ran a dull campaign with low funding, with Virbhadra Singh doing all the hard work himself, travelling from one meeting to another by road.

BJP offered hope and commitment, especially since the party is in power at the centre, and had Assam as the most recent example to present of what central support and initiative could achieve in transforming a state. The people watched, listened and acted, just as Amit Shah had planned.

P.K. Dhumal represented old familiarity and steadiness, while his son Anurag, represented youth aspiration. The combination worked just fine, as people in traditional Congress strongholds came out in large numbers to vote in favour of the BJP.

The real credit goes to the Prime Minister himself, who has been a very hands-on inspirational leader, and who likes to reach out to people with his no-holds-barred message directly. P.K. Dhumal, after all, is not very different from Virbhadra Singh, on age and controversy, yet, the fact that people placed their faith in him reflects the impact of Modi-Shah combine, as seen in other state elections.

With Himachal Pradesh in the bag, the PM has already set his sights on the North East and has already begun laying the foundation with a first-time visit to Mizoram last week. The state along with Meghalaya, Nagaland, and Tripura, go to polls in 2018. The Modi-Shah combine will leave no stone unturned to establish BJP’s footprint there. The party is more than warmed up for 2019 general elections.

Disclaimer: The views expressed are of those of the author and do not represent the views of