NEW DELHI: Himachal Pradesh, which goes to the polls on Tuesday, is set to see a direct contest between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress in the Assembly elections. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is there only to cut into Congress’ votes like in Uttarakhand. The grand old party is toiling to keep its votes intact.
According to sources, Rahul Gandhi may keep away from the campaign in Himachal. So, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has taken the campaign responsibility there. In her rallies, she is describing herself as the daughter of Himachal. She is visiting temples and offering prayers to different gods and goddesses. Before every public meeting, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra visits the temples of a particular area. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra tries to send out the message to Hindu voters that she believes in traditional puja. However, in the past, Congress leaders’ temple visits have hardly brought the party any electoral dividends. The party could have benefited from Rahul Gandhi’s temple visits in Gujarat ahead of the 2017 Assembly elections, but Manishankar Aiyyar spoiled his chances by making “neech” (lowly) remark against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The BJP had managed to get a majority just by a little over 20 seats in a state which was considered to be the saffron outfit’s bastion.
The Congress is raising local issues in Himachal Pradesh. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s rallies are pulling a crowd like what happened in Uttar Pradesh. But the significant question is whether these people will vote for Congress. Before addressing a rally at Solan, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra made it a point to visit Shoolini Devi temple. After which she visited the Chhoti Kashi Bhootnath temple at Mandi. Subsequently, she also prayed to Jwala Devi at Nagarkot Kangra. She was seen establishing direct contact with the people during these religious visits. During her speeches, the AICC general secretary explains what Congress will do for the people if it comes to power. She avoids attacking the BJP, but prefers outlining Congress’ plan. She promises the implementation of the old pension scheme of the Rajasthan government. She also lays emphasis on issues related to farmers and unemployed youths. The old pension scheme is grabbing the centre stage. The BJP was taking the matter lightly earlier. Himachal Chief Minister Jairam Thakur has directed certain questions towards the Congress in terms of this scheme. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot came up with a reply, saying it was the BJP led NDA government which had scrapped the pension scheme in 2004. Gehlot also made it clear that the scheme has been implemented in Rajasthan, and money is being credited in the accounts of pensioners. After this, Thakur had to say that his government would consider it. The BJP knows the importance of employees’ votes. The ruling party’s problem are the rebels. However, BJP has leaders such as PM Narendra Modi and UP CM Yogi Adityanath, who have the potential to influence the voters even at the last minute. Both Modi and Yogi had changed the equation in BJP’s favour in the seats where Congress was strong in Uttarakhand. If Congress loses the polls, the blame will also be on the political advisors of Rahul Gandhi who supported the idea of a Bharat Jodo Yatra at a time when the party has to face elections in two crucial states like Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. Every single senior leader is joining the Yatra so as to be seen with Rahul. Nobody is taking any interest in the elections. The Gandhi family will be under question if the party faces a defeat in both states. Advisors would manage to save their face.
Rahul Gandhi should have organised the yatra before the Himachal and Gujarat elections. He should have planned a visit to the other poll-bound states next year. Congress does not have any charismatic leader like Modi or Yogi. With this being the case, a miracle for the Congress is possible only if Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s prayers at the temples are heard by the gods and goddesses.