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BJP's internal reports say Himachal Pradesh polls are too close to call

Charu Kartikeya | Updated on: 6 November 2017, 18:44 IST
(Arya Sharma/Catch News)

From “zamaanati sarkar” to “deemak”, the level of invectives Prime Minister Narendra Modi is resorting to in his party's campaign against the Congress is stooping to new lows in Himachal Pradesh. Is it among the clearest indications so far that BJP is feeling the heat in the hill-state and is rattled at the prospects of a defeat?

Even as Congress continues to focus its criticism of BJP on policy grounds, Modi is making the battle increasingly vindictive and crass. Addressing a rally in Rait on 4 November, Modi said that to cure the state of the ills it is facing, it is necessary to get rid of termites like the Congress.

It is one thing to criticise and quite another to abuse.

The latter is usually considered a desperate measure, resorted to when one feels cornered. In a bid to snatch the state from the Congress and Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh's grasp, BJP has invested hugely in Himachal Pradesh. These investments range from central funds for multiple projects in the state to unleashing the full force of investigating agencies against the CM.

Modi himself has been campaigning extensively in the state, promptly allocating dates from his packed campaign schedule for home-state Gujarat, which is also poll-bound.

After all of this, if internal assessments indicate not too bright a picture for the BJP, it is natural for the party to feel desperate.

Sources in the party have told Catch that a pre-poll survey, that one of the central intelligence agencies had been asked to conduct, has thrown up discouraging results. The survey has concluded that at this point of time, the elections are too close to call and the reason is only Virbhadra Singh. Modi also said in one of his rallies that Singh appeared to have been abandoned by his party and top leaders were not seen campaigning in the state.

The BJP has learned through this survey that Singh may or may not get a shot in the arm because of top Congress leaders' campaigning for him, he is certainly doing well on his own.

According to the agency, Rajput voters of the state have become sympathetic towards Singh, a Rajput king himself. Many factors are believed to be drawing sympathy towards him, but two stand out.

First, the CM has reportedly been telling everyone in his campaign that this is his last electoral fight and he would like to retire with a victory.

The second reason is an event whose impact the BJP appears to have miscalculated entirely.

In September 2015, the CBI raided Singh's official residence in Shimla and 12 of his other premises in a corruption case. This was not an ordinary day for the man who has become the state's longest-serving CM – this was the day his second daughter was getting married.

Opposition parties had taken note of the timing of the raids and slammed it in one voice. Those raids appear to have come back to haunt the BJP. The survey has indicated that Rajputs have been convinced that this was a deeply vindictive act by the Union government and the ruling party. The result was – yet another reason to sympathise with Singh.

Rajputs are the state's largest voting segment. Some estimates even put their strength at 35% of the electorate. Their support is crucial and if they decide to rally behind someone, it could be enough to turn the fortunes around. BJP sources say this is the reason the party announced the name of former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal as the CM-face just nine days before polling.

Dhumal also hails from the Rajput community and has been CM twice. It looks like it is entirely upon his shoulders to bring victory to BJP in the state.

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

First published: 6 November 2017, 18:44 IST
Charu Kartikeya @CharuKeya

Assistant Editor at Catch, Charu enjoys covering politics and uncovering politicians. Of nine years in journalism, he spent six happily covering Parliament and parliamentarians at Lok Sabha TV and the other three as news anchor at Doordarshan News. A Royal Enfield enthusiast, he dreams of having enough time to roar away towards Ladakh, but for the moment the only miles he's covering are the 20-km stretch between home and work.