Himachal Pradesh is ranked the second-most progressive State with a HDI of 0.846 (2005). Its economy, once largely dependent on agriculture, is diversified now, with industries and services contributing 43.1% to the GSDP. The State is going to polls today.
Who are the main contestants?
Since 1985, the electoral contest in the State has been largely bipolar, with power alternating between the Congress and the BJP every term. Smaller parties formed by rebels or dissidents from either party played spoilers in previous elections but this time there is no such force. The CPI(M) seeks to make an impact in some constituencies after a surprise win in municipal polls in Shimla in 2012.
What are the main issues in these elections?
While Assembly elections in the State have largely centred around local issues and the power play between the two major parties, the impact of demonetisation and the goods and services tax are the talking points this time.
The Congress is seeking to utilise the reported disgruntlement among small traders, in particular with implementation of the GST in the much-diversified economy, while also relying on its Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh’s appeal formed by long-standing patronage politics.
The BJP, on the other hand, chose a popular figure in Prem Kumar Dhumal over a more seasoned organisational man in J.P. Nadda as the chief ministerial candidate, pre-emptively nipping any intra-party tumult over the issue. It seeks to raise the corruption cases pending against Mr. Singh besides capitalising on the image of its star campaigner, Narendra Modi.
The incumbent Congress has been traditionally stronger in constituencies which are situated in uphill terrain. It retained leads in Assembly segments in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in some of these seats. The BJP swept the parliamentary constituencies in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and dominated the lower hill and plains-based Assembly segments.
What does the election mean for national politics?
With the Congress reduced to power in only five States and one Union Territory, it is fighting a battle for survival in a bipolar contest. This is a pattern that will be repeated in many States in western and central India in the coming year. The BJP seeks another stamp of approval for its Central government’s economic policy and steps taken in the last year amidst criticisms over its impact on the economy.