Himachal is the next battleground for BJP & Congress

Shimla : With the assembly results out in five states India’s focus now shifts to Himachal Pradesh where polls are due later this year .

The results would definitely embolden chief minister P.K.Dhumal and make the opposition Congress a little nervous .

Polls are due later in the year but there is speculation that Dhumal may even consider an early election in the state in the summer to take advantage of the BJP’s performance in neighbouring Punjab and Uttarakhand .

Dhumal would also want to benefit from a divided Congress here .

There are currently at least three gangs led by Congress chief Kaul Singh , by the powerful union minister Virbhadra Singh and the third by Vidya Stokes who is seen the closest to Sonia Gandhi .

Although firm in the saddle after over four years in power Dhumal has been shaken by a few jolts in recent months .

By promoting his son Anurag Thakur he is being accused by many of promoting Congress like family politics in a cadre based party .

But more importantly some senior state leaders including four time ex-MP Maheshwar Singh have accused the chief minister of promoting corruption and illegal land transactions .

He and other protesting leaders left the BJP earlier this year and formed a new outfit the HLP . If the HLP grows in the next few months it could seriously damage the BJP .

Interestingly , even though these leaders have left the BJP they continue to remain in touch with Dhumal’s one time mentor and now rival veteran Shanta Kumar , a thought which would make Dhumal nervous .

Even though the BJP’s high command has made it clear that the next election would be fought under Dhumal there is also a remote possibility of Dhumal being replaced if the corruption issue grows out of proportion in the next few months .

Observers say like the Uttarakhand verdict Himachal poll results could also be very close , remember in 1998 it was a tie here and a lone independent MLA then broke the deadlock.

It remains to be seen how much attention and energy the leaders of both the BJP and Congress devote in the cool hills of Himachal Pradesh and woo the voters of this highly literate state .

In a 20 year career published widely. He has worked for the BBC, AFP, The Statesman, IANS and the Business Standard . Known for his hard hitting writing and occasional off-beat stories. He lives in Shimla.

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