The clear mandate the Congress has bagged in the Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections has many reasons, but the most important one is the potential the party still has in states where it is directly pitted against the BJP. Also, the state’s pattern of alternating between the saffron party and the grand old party must have contributed to the latter’s return to power in the state after five years.
The election campaign in the state was largely under the aegis of the state leadership, and helped by AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra who was stationed there during most part of the campaign. The party seems to have cashed in on governance and policy issues that have largely contributed to voter disenchantment with BJP rule in the home state of the party’s national president J.P. Nadda. The farm bills, the GST on packaging, the Agniveer programme, the pension scheme and price rise were issues the Congress used to the hilt to hold the ruling party to account. Despite its organisational weakness elsewhere, it did succeed in converting each one of these in terms of winning the people’s confidence.
The BJP is a 24-by-7 political party, which takes every election seriously. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been harping on the ‘double engine’ growth theme to woo the voters in every state. However, the Indian voter, through the Himalayan state, has once again proved that she has not been sold to one idea or party forever. Governance plays a key role in deciding the choice.
A closer look at the elections in states after 2014 shows that the BJP has found it tough to win state elections even when it sweeps Lok Sabha polls. The pattern is simple — if the Opposition has a policy and programme and a cohesive plan, there are voters to take them back to power. The earlier the Congress and the other Opposition parties realise this, the better it is for them and Indian democracy....