It promises to be the most exciting hillside election campaign in recent times. With multiple rallies by PM Narendra Modi, the BJP has got off to a flying start. Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP started off strong but has recently shifted much of its focus to Gujarat. The congressional campaign rests on Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s shoulders, but has yet to get underway. News18 travels across the state to gauge public sentiment and political strategies ahead of the 2022 Himachal Pradesh elections.
Debunking reports that the distribution of tickets for the Himachal Pradesh assembly elections has sparked disagreements in Congress, the head of the state party Pratibha Singh Chauhan has said that “profitability” and not “proximity” of leaders has been considered behind the shortlist of the “best” candidates.
Speaking to News 18 as she heads the Himachal Pradesh unit for the November 12 elections, Chauhan said the party had conducted several investigations before the list was finalized. “Not just one, we did a few more ground surveys to access the winnability factor. We continued to gauge the mood on the ground and based on several such surveys, changes were made where we thought necessary, and were the best team,” said Chauhan, wife of former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh.
As to whether the disagreement in the state unity could affect the party’s electoral chances, Chauhan denied claims. “Everyone is on board. We know how important it is to win these elections. Everyone has joined forces to ensure that we dethrone the government. There may have been some disagreements before, but we are going to the polls with united spirits because this is our best chance of winning,” said the three-time MP.
When asked whether Rahul Gandhi’s absence from the election campaign could affect the party, Chauhan said the entire Gandhi family is behind the party. “He (Rahul Gandhi) has already announced his Bharat Jodo Yatra from South. But he has assured that he would take a little break and come in between for the campaign. Besides, we already have Priyanka Gandhi campaigning, and we also expect Sonia ji for a few rallies,” Pratibha said.
Whether her husband Virbhadra Singh’s death last year could pose a challenge to Congress, Chauhan said the wave of sympathy continues even after Mandi’s victory in last November’s poll. “I do realize that he has been the face of the party, bringing all the factions together. We miss him, but people still believe they should vote for his legacy and vote for the party,” the Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee head noted.
Speaking about Congress’ plans for the state in her campaign, Chauhan also emphasized that the “Virbadhra factor” does draw a connection. “He has been an important factor that has drawn people to the party. His legacy is clearly something he will continue to work on,” she said.
On the importance of the Modi factor in December’s polls, she said voters were disillusioned with Jai Ram Thakur’s government. “Ultimately, the people who attend Prime Minister Modi’s meetings also understand that the BJP government has done little on the ground. Whether in price hikes or job creation, overall, Jai Ram Thakur’s government has failed. So, just trying to rely on the so-called Modi magic won’t help the party,” Chauhan said.
She challenged the BJP government to come up with a list of the ‘real work’ done by the Jai Ram Thakur government. “There is no connection with the people. The real problems have been ignored and just relying on the Prime Minister is not enough. These are local elections where governance issues are considered and not just based on a central leader you (BJP) can win,” she claimed.
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