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Himachal CM says BJP will form government again in hill state

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, said that the BJP will make history of sorts by forming a government for a second time in a row (Pic. Courtesy ANI)

Shimla: As the day for counting of votes in the Himachal Pradesh polls draws near, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is in action mode once again.

At a marathon review meeting of the post-poll scenes in the state on Sunday, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, said that the BJP will make history of sorts by forming a government for a second time in a row.

The counting of votes is slated for December 8 along with Gujarat,  where the second and last phase of polling is underway today.

“All poll surveys and analysis indicate a favourable trend for us, both in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat—a state where I campaigned extensively. The people have trust in the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. I thank the people of the state for their participation in the electoral process,” Thakur told media persons at Dharamshala, after the review meeting.

The review meeting, the first of its kind ahead of the counting of votes, holds significance for the BJP, which has high stakes in the poll as never before has any incumbent government come back to power in the hill state since 1985.

The meeting was presided over by BJP national vice-president Saudan Singh while those present included state party incharge Avinash Rai Khanna, co-incharge Sanjay Tandon, state election co-incharge Devender Rana and state BJP chief Suresh Kashyap.

The party had invited all 68 candidates to get a constituency-wise feedback from all 12 districts including Kangra—the state’s biggest district crucial in the formation of any government.

Kangra has 15 assembly seats followed by Mandi— the Chief minister’s home district having 10 seats.

During 2017 polls, the BJP had won 11 seats in Kangra and nine out of 10 seats in Mandi. The party insiders admit that anti-incumbency against some sitting MLAs and ministers could be a worry to retain its position in 2017.

But the Chief Minister says the BJP ‘s organisational machinery was much stronger than that of the Congress. The party will form the next government.

Asked for his comments on the Congress leaders vying for the Chief Ministerial post, Jai Ram Thakur said“ there are at least 10 of them vying for the post. None of them are closer to winning their seats. Each one of them was so afraid of losing, they called themselves future Chief Ministers just to boost their prospects”.

Nevertheless, the Congress is equally hopeful of returning to power. The party is largely banking on the state’s electoral history of changing governments after every five years.

The Congress has not named its Chief Minister owing to factionalism in the  party, yet there are at least three prominent contenders for the leadership should the Congress get closer to the half-way mark.

They include Pratibha Singh, PCC president and wife of former Chief Minister late Virbhadra Singh, Sukhwinder Sukhu, a three-time MLA and Congress state campaign committee head and Mukesh Agnihotri, leader of opposition.

Pratibha Singh is third-term MP and was named state party president before the elections to encash on the political legacy of Virbhadra Singh, a Congress stalwart and former Chief Minister.

She is not contesting the poll but a large number of Virbhadra Singh loyalists are viewing her as a prospective Chief Minister.

Sukhu doesn’t deny being a Chief Ministerial post claimant yet admits that right now the first priority is to get elected to the assembly.

“The party has not named any Chief Ministerial candidate. As per the system in the Congress, MLAs will give their views to the high command about the choice of Chief Minister and thereafter the high command will name the leader.”

He even shot down Pratibha Singh’s claim saying, “Chief Minister will be chosen from elected MLAs only.”

He, however, claims that Congress was heading for a landslide victory in the state. The people of the state gave BJP an overwhelming mandate in 2017 but the government failed to deliver.

“Now, they (people) want a change. A change for good governance, better administration and delivery of services. Our feedback from the ground is about a clear victory” he told India Narrative.

The developments within the Congress indicate chances of an intense battle for leadership but the question still remains will the Congress be able to get the numbers.

There are already fears, within a section of the party, about the BJP watering down the opposition’s hopes to form the government. The BJP has already shown its willingness to embrace rebels winning their seats.