Assembly By-Election 2019: BJP Rides on Popularity, Congress to Find Lost Footing

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bypolls in himachal pradesh

Shimla-The bugle for the upcoming by-polls on two seats, namely Dharamshala and Pachhad constituencies, have been sounded by both Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress. The bugle is louder from the side of BJP that has taken a lead in preparing for the polls.

While BJP is looking to maintain the popularity that it had gained by winning the majority of seats in the legislative assembly polls, Congress would try to bring back the party to life by winning by-polls. It would be a crucial opportunity for the new HP Congress Committee President, Kuldeep Rathore, to prove his worth as a skilful leader at a time when the motivation of party workers has dipped to its lowest levels after what happened during the recent Lok Sabha Elections.

BJP has already allotted roles to various ministers, MLAs, and even government officials for the preparation of polls, however, it has still not given any hint regarding possible candidates on both seats.

Despite the ongoing economic slowdown and hue and cry over unemployment, BJP doesn’t have much to worry as the media and party workers have successfully distracted the public by bringing entire focus on Article 370, Chandrayan Mission, war with Pakistan etc.

In terms of candidates, Congress seems to have settled with two names, while the list of candidates seeking tickets from BJP is getting longer and longer as the polls are nearing. Though infighting for tickets is common feature for both parties, the cacophony of is louder within BJP.  Various candidates are continuously making visits to their patrons in power to get tickets.

For Congress, Sudhir Sharma and Gangu Ram Musafir seem to be the final candidates from Dharamshala and Pachhad seats respectively. Sudhir was a minister in the Virbhadra Singh Cabinet in 2012 but had lost in 2017. Gangu Ram Musafir has represented the party seven times in elections. He had faced defeated in 2012 and 2017.

Some sources suggested that the party has asked Rathore to introduce new faces on this seat instead of Musafir. The announcement of final candidates could be made on Friday after the Congress high-command gives a nod.

However, it seems that Congress is still waiting for the declaration of the dates for the polls before it could kick-off its campaign as not much activity is visible.

On the other hand, Chief Minister Jairam Thakur has visited both constituencies twice. During his visit to Pachhad in the first week of September, the CM has made several announcements from opening PHCs to making every road a national highway in the constituency. For Dharamshala, he promised to make it a city that would match international standards.

Last week, the Chief Minister, taking a lead from the Elections Commission, himself had announced that dates for the polls would be declared within next eight to ten days.

The HPCC President, Kuldeep Rathore, pointed out that the CM was undermining the Election Commission’s role in making such announcements. He had asked the EC to take action against the CM for making comments on declaration regarding the announcement of dates for the elections.

BJP is also facing a dilemma over Pachhad seat as the people of Trans-Giri region are demanding a ticket to a candidate from their region this time. Also, in Pachhad, a section of local BJP leaders have warned the government of boycott in by-polls if their demands related to development works in the constituency were not attended.

On the other hand, though Congress doesn’t have much ammunition against BJP, the recent controversy over viral message alleging the Health Minister and others of corruption in the health department has given it an issue. After the name of BJP’s own ex-minister, Ravinder Ravi appeared in the case and the way police seized his mobile and questioned him multiple times, the infighting of BJP has gained greater visibility.

Congress is mocking at BJP’s infighting and asking to probe the allegations labelled in the message instead of acting against those who wrote and circulated it. On Thursday, Vikramaditya, MLA from Shimla (rural) constituency, took a jibe at the police action against BJP’s own leader and suggested that current government is trying to cover up the matter instead of probing the allegations.  

Its own leaders, divided into two factions are trying to malign the image of each other. One faction is loyal to former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, while the other is standing in support of the current CM Jairam Thakur.

Prem Kumar Dhumal was the CM candidate of BJP prior to the results of the elections to the state legislative assembly held in 2017. However, he became a victim of politics in his own party and lost the elections. The grudges between two factions have intensified since then. Recently, Dhumal had openly criticised, as well as, given advice to the current government to not take decisions regarding hikes in the allowances of MLAs and Ministers, especially when the nation is going through an economic slowdown.

Though chances are bleak that Dhumal would be placed as a candidate in the upcoming by-polls, it would be interesting to see if MLAs of his faction succeed in creating a lobby strong enough to get him a ticket. In case he receives a ticket, then the political developments within BJP post-elections would be worth watching.