The opposition BJP in Himachal Pradesh is struggling to regain the ground lost in the 2012 assembly election, while the Congress is banking on the history of the electorate giving an edge to the party in every poll. Political analysts say a trend has emerged in the state in two decades in which the electorate has been traditionally favouring in the Lok Sabha polls the party at the helm in the state.
Even if the general election comes within a gap of less than 18 months from the assembly polls, the anti-incumbency factor will not play spoilsport in such a short period, they say. The state's two main parties are the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). "The results of the assembly polls in four states (in December 2013) are a morale booster for the BJP which had been lying low ever since it was ousted from power in the state," a political analyst told IANS.
The BJP has done more work than the Congress in taking back rebels and expelled leaders who had either contested the last assembly election against the party nominee or had worked against the party. So far, the party has re-inducted four former legislators.
"The Congress is still dithering about the expelled leaders, including five former legislators, due to difference of opinion between Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and state party president Sukhvinder Sukhu," a Congress leader told IANS. At least, 25 leaders were expelled from the Congress for six years after the assembly polls. He said the issue of re-inducting expelled leaders has bene discussed by party state in-charge Rajiv Shukla and Sukhu. "Sukhu has been told to look into the issue at the earliest as delay can damage the party's prospects," said the leader, who did not wish to be identified.
Leaders awaiting their re-entry into the Congress include Yog Raj, Mast Ram, Ishwar Dass, Sneh Lata Thakur and Dharamvir Dhami. Sources in the Congress told IANS that bickering between the chief minister and the state party chief has come to the fore a number of times, from selecting candidates for the Lok Sabha polls to taking back the expelled leaders and canvassing.
"The party is united and there is a perfect coordination between the party and the government. We will win all four seats," Sukhu told IANS. However, party workers are yet to reconcile over the candidature of Rajinder Rana from Hamirpur seat, where the opposition BJP has retained two-time lawmaker Anurag Thakur. Rana, a close confidante of the chief minister, is labelled an 'outsider' owing to his previous allegiance with the BJP. In Kangra, many leaders are not willing to campaign for party nominee Chander Kumar.
Even Virbhadra Singh in his election rallies is critical of BJP leaders, including former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, but seems to play a friendly match with Chander Kumar's rival Shanta Kumar of the BJP. "Shanta-ji is a seasoned, grassroots leader. Though we differ in ideology, he's a man of principles," Virbhadra Singh has said in his speeches. The issue of party rebels is also a cause for concern in Mandi seat, from where Virbhadra Singh's wife Pratibha Singh is re-contesting.
The Congress is also in troubled waters in the Shimla (reserved) seat. For the first time in 2009, the BJP managed to win this seat, which was a known Congress bastion. In 2009, the BJP, which was in power in the state, won three of the four Lok Sabha seats.
At that time, only Virbhadra Singh managed to win the Mandi seat but with a slender margin of just over 13,000 votes. Similarly, in the 2004 poll, it was the Congress which had the advantage of the party in power and won three seats by comfortable margins.
The BJP retained its stronghold of Hamirpur from where Suresh Chandel emerged victorious.