Why all three

Himachal AAP leaders join BJP camp. (File photo.)

NEW DELHI: The hill state of Himachal Pradesh sends just four members to the parliament yet the contest for its 68-member assembly is turning out to be of utmost importance not just to the country’s two major national parties – BJP and Congress – but also to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) which could soon join the club.

The reason being that each of the three contestants has a reason to believe that the Himalayan hill state could give them a substantial boost.

Bypoll jolt for the BJP

In the last three decades, no party that ruled Himachal has managed to return to power. However, as Congress and BJP were the two claimants, power rotated between them. As a continuation of this trend the BJP ousted the Congress from power in 2017 and Jai Ram Thakur is the present chief minister.

However, after having done exceptionally well in recent state polls, where the BJP managed to retain Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur.

With momentum firmly on its side, the BJP would not like to allow bragging rights to its political rivals.

Moreover, Himachal Pradesh is the home state of BJP chief J P Nadda apart from the I&B minister Anurag Thakur. Both key figures for the party in Delhi.

However, despite these factors, the people of the state had given the BJP a wake-up jolt during state bypolls in November last year. Not only the Congress win the Mandi Lok Sabha seat, it also was victorious in three assembly seats. A clear indication, that the state polls will not be a cakewalk.

Can the Congress snatch a BJP-ruled state?

The Congress, especially after its drubbing in five states recently, is a badly mauled party. As the BJP regained power in four states, while the Congress lost it in Punjab, it will be a major morale booster for the party if it can do well in Himachal.

The party is a force to reckon with in other states like Gujarat, Karnataka or Rajasthan. However, it is in Himachal that it has got one of the best chances to capture power in a state that is ruled by the BJP.

However, to emerge victorious, the Congress not only has to prevail over the BJP but also Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP. It will also have to ensure that its state unit is not prone to infighting that has been its bane in many regions.

Uttarakhand way or Punjab way

The third party in the picture AAP is a new entrant which also lost a lot of its leaders to the BJP recently. However, the party is continuing to make efforts and is presenting its cheap electricity and civic infrastructure model to the people of the state.

Two of Himachal’s neighbouring states – Punjab and Uttarakhand – went to polls in February. The AAP would hope that Himachal would look towards Punjab more than Uttarakhand, where BJP stunned its rivals once again.

Hectic political activity

With all the three parties fancying their chances, top leaders have begun to make a beeline for the state.

BJP national president Jagat Prakash Nadda, Aam Aadmi Party leaders Arvind Kejriwal and Bhagwant Mann, and Congress leader Rajiv Shukla recently visited the state. Kejriwal is scheduled to visit Kangra on April 23, according to reports.

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