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Focus on Gujarat, but BJP, Congress heading for a photo finish in Himachal

Last Modified Thursday, 28 September 2017 (11:16 IST)
New Delhi: All eyes could be on the ensuing polls but both the and the are headed for an equal and crucial fight in as well. The BJP is keen to bounce back to power riding the anti-incumbency wave but is not in a position to name the Chief Ministerial face yet owing to intra-party differences and also leadership indicating to put their weight behind a candidate of their choice.

Besides former P K Dhumal, the party leaders have been toying the name of Union Health Minister J P Nadda for quite sometime. Apparently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi too is likely to back Mr Nadda, whose performance as Union Health Minister has been "impressive", according to BJP sources. The BJP - however - has to deal with the RSS as the Sangh fountainhead is likely to push Ajay Jamwal while the state unit chief Satpal Satti too is being considered.
Mr Jamwal is a former RSS Pracharak and has been organisational in-charge of North East affairs of the party for sometime. Some party leaders may also push for party MP Anurag Thakur, also a former BJP Yuva Morcha chief, but being Mr Dhumal's son could dampen his chances at a time when 'dynastic polity' is in public debate. For its part, the Congress has its own problems.

Normally, Himachal Pradesh votes out incumbent government(s) every five years and going by that theory, many Congressmen and women seemed to have given up the fight. "Besides, anti-incumbency wave, the corruption charge against Chief Minister Vidbhadra Singh is the major poll issue," a party leader admitted here. "The Congress party has always lacked imaginative poll strategies and campaign style. Its more so in Himachal Pradesh," a source said here trying to make a veiled attack on former Union Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, the AICC general secretary in-charge of the poll-bound state. "If BJP's campaign in Himachal Pradesh is on 'negative' line attacking Virbhadra Singh, in Congress case it is much more simple - attack the Prime Minister Narendra Modi government. But voters in Himachal Pradesh generally go by local issues and the individual candidates when it comes to assembly elections," one party leader told UNI here.
The Congress sources also admit about differences between Virbhadra Singh camp and his detractors in the Congress. "Virbhadra Singh has more enemies within," the source said indicating a senior party leader from the state has always been trying to harm his reputation before the Congress high command. He would, however, decline to name the leader. The state pradesh Congress chief Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu has not been able to gain the 'confidence' of veteran Virbhadra Singh.

The aging Chief Minister has already urged Mr Shinde to explore possibilities of replacing Mr Sukhu -- which apparently the party's central leadership is unlikely to oblige. "It will be a delayed move if state Pradesh Congress chief is replaced now," a source said. The Congress party's co in-charge for Himachal Pradesh polls, Ranjita Ranjan (MP) has been openly backing Mr Sukhu -- giving high command's backing - and has said that Mr Sukhu "has come up the ladder by his hard work and after strengthening the party at ground level".
But a section of Congress leaders remain optimistic on the pretext that the BJP has so failed to "enthuse the crowd" with their new offerings or electoral promises. According to them, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi remains BJP's principal vote catcher, even BJP president Amit Shah in his rallies so far has able to speak only about 'corruption' cases against Virbhadra Singh. "The BJP's failure at the national level as things come out in public discourse vis-a-vis joblessness can help Congress if the opportunity is made use of effectively," the Congress source said.

The ruling party in the state (Himachal) however, is keeping a close vigil on PM Modi's October 3 visit to the state. As of now the Congress party feels Mr Sukhu's presence in a key position could help garner support from an important segment of the society. "We will sort out everything," Mr Shinde last week told a delegation of party leaders from the state and urged them to give their best to retain Himachal Pradesh. (UNI)
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