A striking feature of the Assembly election in Himachal Pradesh was the absence of any visible leadership cult. The BJP sought to mobilise the voters by organising rallies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. Unlike elsewhere, the popularity of Mr. Modi, too, did not help the BJP to retain power.
In the post-poll survey, voters were asked as to what extent the Modi government fulfilled their expectations. More than four in 10 said the Modi government fulfilled their expectations to a large extent. Among these voters, understandably, 68% voted for the BJP.
But more than three in 10 voters said the Modi government fulfilled their expectations to ‘some’ extent and among these voters, more than half voted for the Congress and only one-third voted for the BJP (Table 1). Even in the case of choice of Chief Minister, respondents did not gravitate toward any particular leader — except that a large proportion did mention the then CM, Jai Ram Thakur. Usually, the visibility of the incumbent contributes to people naming that person as the desired choice. But in the case of Himachal, more people said they did not mind if anyone became the Chief Minister (Table 2).
Voters were also aware of the factionalism both within the BJP and the Congress (Table 3) and both parties, being cautious due to factionalism, desisted from announcing their chief ministerial candidate in advance. This further led to the election taking place in a leadership vacuum — something that has become rare in Indian elections of late.
(Suhas Palshikar taught political science and is chief editor of Studies in Indian Politics)