As electioneering peaks in the run-up to the November 12 Assembly polls in Himachal Pradesh, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is seen evoking national issues. On the other hand, its key challenger, the Congress party has largely been sticking to local issues and targeting the “poor governance” of the incumbent BJP in the State.
Over the past three decades, the 68-member State Assembly has witnessed a bipolar contest between the Congress and the BJP. This time, again, the stage is all set for a fight between these traditional rivals, who are employing contrasting strategies in this hill State.
With three days to go for the polling, a battery of leaders from both the Congress and the BJP are busy in frantic campaigning across the State to garner maximum support and edge out rivals. The BJP has been aggressively campaigning for the past few months, and prominent leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, and the party’s national president J.P. Nadda who hails from Himachal Pradesh have addressed several rallies. The electioneering for the Congress, however, has so far been largely steered by the party’s General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and the State leadership, including Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu and Pratibha Singh.
National vs local
In its campaign, the BJP has been boasting the benefits of ‘double engine’ governments (with the same party in power at both the Centre and State), besides raking up national issues such as the abrogation of Article 370, the construction of the Ram Temple and India’s cross-border air strike. A promise to implement the Uniform Civil Code has found a prominent place in the BJP’s manifesto as well.
The Congress, on the other hand, has been cautious not to lose focus on the local State-level issues it is using to corner the BJP government, including increasing unemployment, rising prices, poor administrative governance, corruption allegations against the backdrop of alleged irregularities in police recruitment, teacher recruitment, and in the purchase of PPE kits in the health department, non-restoration of the Old Pension Scheme for government employees, and the problems of horticulturists and farmers. These are some of the issues around which the Congress party has woven its campaign and carried it out at the ground level, even though it fell short in large rallies in comparison to the BJP’s aggressive campaign.
Contrasting campaign styles
In fact, both parties have been taking a jibe at each other in their campaigning styles as well. The Congress has maintained that the BJP is campaigning aggressively because it has sensed its defeat in the upcoming election, alleging that the ruling party’s extensive poll spending is an attempt to woo voters now as in it has failed to deliver over the last five years. The BJP, however, has been pointing out the absence of Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi from election campaigning and terming this as proof of their indifference towards Himachal Pradesh.