Virbhadra Singh


Shamsher Chandel, The Hush Post: The story of Himachal politics is a simple story – it is automated almost to the extent of a fair coin which alternately falls once as heads and the next time as tails.

If BJP comes to power this time round riding on anti-incumbency, the voters of Himachal Pradesh should actually invest in finding such a fair coin of probability so that during next elections in 2022, a coin is tossed up instead of holding polls. “It is almost like the apple crop, after each bumper harvest, in the next cycle the crop is ruined by the hale-storm only to come back a year later much like the political parties revive after each five year wipe-out.

The BJP government in 2007 introduced the anti-hale guns, courtesy Prem Kumar Dhumal, the then chief minister, whose decisions were influenced by his minister Narendra Bragta, who belongs to Jubbal-Kotkhai constituency, a part of the apple belt. He understood the apple-related woes. The apple harvest was saved partially due to the anti-hale gun but that didn’t save the BJP. They lost power to Virbhadra in 2003 and 2012. The current Himachal chief minister Virbhadra Singh is considered the Adam of Himachal politics. He has bitten the biblical fruit that he grows as well and has lived a parallel political life, but has not understood this ‘tree of knowledge’ and has never been able to be back, back-to-back (except on Indira Gandhi wave after her assassination)?

“In fact, the problem with politicians and voters in Himachal is alike. The voter doesn’t know what to wish and politicians don’t know what to give,” says Chandra Shekhar an old timer, who has been voting since the inception of the state. “I also used to behave in a similar fashion, basically vote casually. But now I do feel bad about the way this whole election business is treated like a festival by voters.”  The voter’s plight can be understood from demands as simple as a transfer. “I was a teacher in Shimla. I wanted to go back home and that’s all I wanted. I voted for my transfer and it got done,” says a retired government school teacher from Kangra unwilling to get named.

“If transfer satisfies you, you will never see development in your state, which is why after the transfers to either urban areas or nearer home one doesn’t demand development. And the government pays no heed and after five years loses but doesn’t know why.”

Visheshwar Negi, a keen watcher of rural affairs and politics in Shimla, says, “Voters in Himachal, particularly in rural areas are gullible, and compound it with the fact that in a comparatively peaceful state and no life crisis situation, people like the status quo in their life. In such a scenario they don’t have pressing demands.” But what is in store for the political parties Prof Harish Thakur HoD, the department of Political Science, Himachal Pradesh University tries to explains, “What goes against the Congress are the charges of corruption. But what goes against BJP is demonetisation and GST. Still, the way Himachal votes, we will have to presume that there is anti-incumbency.”

None of these two political party look to the future, says, former Deputy Mayor of Shimla and a CPIM leader, Tikender Panwar. “Look at the casualness with which the manifestos are prepared. “Now imagine, Congress and BJP believe that distributing free laptops would help their cause. They are forgetting that Dhumal’s induction plate formula, which they had in the manifesto in 2012, didn’t help them retain power five years ago. Now both parties have laptops included. It clearly means either they haven’t learnt their lessons or they take voters casually.” “It is almost like bribing voters. Tomorrow they will offer, refrigerators, LEDs, shoes and monthly ration, where does it stop.” On a more serious note he says, “A manifesto should be treated as a legal document only then will a release of manifesto make sense.”

In fact, it’s not the manifesto but the recent development related work which works for or against. Some political observers of the state particularly in lower Himachal region of Una, Bilaspur and Hamirpur pit the GST and ill effects of demonetisation against the projects like AIIMS, IIT at Una and 11 other ventures inaugurated by PM Modi which might help BJP gain a landslide victory in this region. But a BJP insider confesses,“BJP wasn’t sure of their victory  despite all of these inaugurations, which is why they thought to introduce the two time chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal who is the only one to take on Virbhadra Singh.”