As Himachal Pradesh prepares for Assembly election on November 12, the stage may be set for anxiously close battles in several constituencies of this hill State, given the nail-biting finish of the 2017 polls.
The electoral battle in Himachal Pradesh will largely be between traditional rivals BJP and the Congress, though the entry of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) may tilt the equation in quite a few seats.
In the 2017 Assembly election, 20 out of the total 68 constituencies saw winning margins of less than 3,000 votes. Out of these 20, in six segments, the margins were 1,000 or less. Overall, at least 34 constituencies - half of the total seats - saw the winner receive less than 5,000 votes than the runner-up.
Himachal has a bipolar electoral system that has established itself in the past three decades, with the Congress and the BJP alternately forming the government every five years. However, the slender winning margins last time around could give jitters to both Congress and the ruling BJP as the AAP, which has registered an emphatic win in neighbouring Punjab, has announced that it would contest on all 68 segments. While for the BJP, it is 'Mission Repeat' and for the Congress it's a battle to regain power, for the AAP the election is about playing the proverbial 'dark horse'.
With the AAP throwing its hat into the ring, the divide among voters is bound to increase. While on the surface, it seems to be a direct contest between the BJP and the Congress, the AAP could play the ‘spoilsport’ for the two parties in many seats, especially where there are close contests between the traditional heavyweights.
The last date for filing of nominations is October 25 while the scrutiny of papers will be held on October 27. The last date for the withdrawal of papers is October 29. The counting will take place on December 8.
The ruling BJP at present has 43 MLAs while the Congress has 22. There are two Independents and one CPM MLA in the Assembly.