The survival crisis that stares the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre in the face is sure to have an effect on the party’s prospects in Himachal where assembly elections are due to be held anytime soon. Sources said the state leadership was giving final touches to its poll manifesto and campaign strategy to counter the ruling BJP regime when the Rs 5 hike in diesel prices, restriction on subsidized LPG cylinders and nod to FDI in multi-brand retail came as a few tough decisions to deal with from the UPA government
These decisions by the Centre came in quick succession of the party effecting a leadership change in the state with Kaul Singh Thakur making way for Virbhadra Singh as the state president. The step did boost the morale of the party cadres, but political pundits say the bold measures initiated by the Centre cannot pass by without doing any damage. Even a seasoned politician like five-time CM Virbhadra Singh will have to think out of the box to reverse the alleged damage.
At present, top leaders of the Himachal Congress, including Virbhadra Singh, Vidya Stokes and Kaul Singh, are huddled in Delhi seeking the party ticket for their supporters as well as to give final touches to the election-related activities. The allotment of ticket may also not come early as the party high command would now get busy in the mammoth task of working out numbers to save the UPA-II government. Amidst all these hiccups, the Congress campaign in Himachal is losing steam. After the August 29 rally in Shimla when Virbhadra took over the reins, the party has only held one major gathering in Bilaspur.
On the other hand, Chief Minister Prof Prem Kumar Dhumal has already finished a whirlwind tour of the state, making a spree of inaugurations and announcements and on a four day visit to Delhi to final party’s first list of candidates. Apart from this, the ruling BJP is leaving no stone unturned to cash in as much as they can the issues of diesel price hike, LPG supply cap and the FDI. The morale of the BJP cadres is already high after the party formed the government in alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal in neighbouring Punjab for the record consecutive second term. Now, it will be interesting to see how Virbhadra Singh adds life to the dying Congress campaign once he returns from Delhi.
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