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Dhumal vs. Virbhadra Singh – Who has better chances in Himachal Pradesh?

November 7, 2017


The people of Himachal Pradesh are all set to elect their political leaders on 9 November and will know the results on 18 December.

This Himachal Pradesh election is special, and the fight is expected to be fierce. On the surface, it’s a straight battle between old political foes; seven-term Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh (83) of INC, and his principal challenger from the BJP, Prem Kumar Dhumal (73), the former Chief Minister.

What’s special this time is the fact that both these stalwarts are fighting to establish their next generation to take over the political legacy. Virbhadra Singh arm-twisted the party high command to relent on the ‘one family, one ticket’ rule to accommodate his son, Vikramaditya Singh. This will be his first election.

On the other hand is Prem Kumar Dhumal, whose son, Anurag Thakur, is a three-term Lok Sabha MP and President of BCCI. Anurag is being groomed to take over his father’s political legacy sometime in the future.

Irrespective of who wins, the biggest gainers from this election are going to be the two sons. That said, there is a lot at stake for both Congress and the BJP.

Congress is fighting anti-incumbency as people of the state have a record since 1985 of not giving a consecutive term to the ruling party. This election, therefore, is going to be a big challenge for Virbhadra Singh personally and his party.

Congress cannot afford to lose this election, especially since Rahul Gandhi is all set to take over as party president. A loss here would give critics within the party and alliance partners yet another opportunity to question his leadership capability.

This election is crucial for BJP. A win here will further strengthen the party position in the Upper House and set up the base for 2019 general elections. BJP President Amit Shah is confident that his party will make a comeback, given strong anti-incumbency sentiment and pending corruption charges against the Chief Minister. So much so that the BJP has gone ahead and announced PK Dhumal as their CM candidate, a departure from their usual strategy.

Both Dhumal and Virbhadra Singh have been trading accusations of corruption, and the fight has recently turned personal.

Main issues in this Election


Graft cases is a major thorn for the ruling party. People are upset with increasing incidences of corruption at the highest levels, and the harassment faced in dealing with various arms of the government. It’s certainly going to dent the ruling parties chances.

Rising crime

The brutal rape and murder of a young girl and the killing of another four-year-old Yug Gupta has highlighted the increasing crime graph in the state. People have begun to view the state police as incompetent and lacking in commitment.

Alcohol and drug addiction

Both are rising social problems in the state and people are upset with the government’s lack of initiative in fighting the problem. The youth are mostly unemployed and are increasingly falling prey to all forms of addiction.

Lack of jobs

Lack of jobs has forced most youth to migrate to other states, leaving behind aging family members to fend for themselves. Tourism, which is the biggest revenue earner for the state, has not attracted major investment thereby new job creation has suffered.


Improvement and access to quality medical care in remote areas has been a major demand of the people. The state government has not invested adequately in creating new infrastructure, and existing ones are in poor shape.

Drinking water and sanitation

The state has a serious water crisis throughout the year, and the problem is particularly exacerbated during summer months when large numbers of tourists arrive. Furthermore, the state government has spent little on sanitation and related infrastructure.


Between the two, PK Dhumal is better placed to win this election, but it will be a close fight nevertheless as Virbhadra Singh continues to enjoy support from large pockets within the state.


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