While a majority of exit polls indicate a clear victory for the BJP in the Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh is confident that the Congress will win, notwithstanding the anti-incumbency factor and corruption charges.
Just a day ahead of counting , Mr. Singh on Sunday challenged the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate, saying “let him win his own seat first and then form the next government”.
Relaxing in the winter sun, surrounded by close supporters at his residence, Mr. Singh bristled at any mention of the Opposition and its leaders. He said his party would win again and his son Vikramaditya, who is contesting his first elections, would win from the Shimla Rural constituency. Mr. Singh had held the seat earlier. He is fighting from the Arki constituency in Solan.
Mr. Vikramaditya Singh termed the exit polls as bogus, and said they had been released to please Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The State Congress, which is facing a widespread factionalism, is clearly divided into pro- and anti-Virbhadra camps in all the constituencies. Most of his Cabinet colleagues preferred to spend the day in their respective constituencies.
In contrast, there was a festive gathering at the Samirpur residence of Mr. Dhumal in Hamirpur district. Enthused by the exit polls, BJP supporters are confident of their victory and were seen discussing the forms and functions of the third Dhumal government in the hill State. The small district of Hamirpur, which sends only five MLAs to the 68-member House, had come into prominence after the advent of Mr. Dhumal, who entered the Vidhan Sabha for the first time as a Chief Minister in 1998.
Anurag Thakur, Lok Sabha MP from Hamirpur and former BCCI chief, reached Samirpur on Sunday and was with his father in welcoming party workers from all over the State.
Shimla MLA Suresh Bhardwaj said the exit polls had given a trend, and the BJP would surely form the government.
In the Ponta Sahib constituency of Nahan, supporters of BJP candidate Sukhram Choudhary have already hung large hoardings thanking people for his historic victory. The supporters of senior Congress leader G.S. Bali had last week taken out a victory procession at Nagrota Bagwan in Kangra in expectation of his victory.
The Congress campaign was centred on Mr. Singh and his five terms in office in the past. Many rebels from the party had fought the elections and that had clearly helped the BJP.
The BJP centred its campaign on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s performance and later on the experience and mature leadership of Mr. Dhumal. The party cadres vastly publicised the corruption charges against Mr. Singh and his failure on issues of governance and law and order. The rape and murder case of a minor girl in Shimla district and its mishandling by the government could influence the elections in some of the important seats in the Shimla Lok Sabha constituency.