As shown in the accompanying piece on leadership, the election to the Himachal Assembly did not focus on any particular leader nor were the voters enamoured by any particular leader. By a thin margin, voters brought the Congress to power. What issues did they possibly consider as important?
The Lokniti-CSDS data show that though voters considered the overall development of the State as the most important voting consideration, the issues of price rise and unemployment were at the second and the third positions in the list of their voting considerations (Table 1). These responses were given without being prompted, i.e., the survey did not give any options, but simply asked voters to report the issues they thought were important to them.
When voters were asked about these issues in separate sets of questions, over nine in 10 voters (94%) in Himachal Pradesh said that inflation has increased. There was an increase of 22 percentage points as during the 2017 Assembly election in Himachal Pradesh. Close to three-fourths (72%) believed that the issue of price rise had increased.
At the same time, almost nine out of 10 voters were also concerned about the decreasing employment opportunities in the state. This has gone up by 57 percentage points as compared with the 2017 Assembly election; that time close to one- third (31%) of the voters had said that the unemployment has increased in the State (Table 2).
These two economic issues affected people’s vote choice to some extent as those who believe that price rise and unemployment have increased, were more likely to vote for the Congress than the BJP (Table 3). In this connection, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh present two contrasting studies. In Gujarat despite the discontentment over the condition of inflation and unemployment, the BJP won the State election handsomely whereas in Himachal Pradesh, these factors seem to have made a difference.
(The authors are researchers at Lokniti-CSDS)