New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is once again predicted to put up a strong show in Himachal Pradesh, with most exit polls giving all four seats in the state to the saffron party.
According to the News18-IPSOS Exit Poll, the BJP will win all four Lok Sabha constituencies, while the Congress will draw a blank.
The ABP Nielson also came up with a similar prediction. The BJP had swept the hill state in 2014, defeating Congress candidates by massive margins. The hill state witnessed a direct contest between the national parties.
Sukh Ram, who has been in and out of the Congress, re-joined the grand old party in March, giving it a much-needed boost. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has a small presence in the state as well.
The hill state’s polity is dominated by upper castes, mostly Rajputs. Brahmins have usually played the role of kingmaker, with the exception of the BJP’s Shanta Kumar, who was twice elected chief minister.
Scheduled castes, despite comprising 25.19% of the state’s population and being second only to Rajputs in numbers, have not organised themselves into a voting bloc.
Other backward castes make up 17.1% of the population and can tilt the poll result in Kangra, Una, Hamirpur, Sirmaur and Solan districts. Tribal areas include Kinnaur, Lahaul-Spiti and Chamba districts where Gaddi is the most dominant tribe.
The state also has one of the highest populations of government employees in India. This year, Himachal Pradesh may become the first Indian state where all households have cooking gas connection, according to the 2019-20 state budget.
The most prominent candidate in the state was Anurag Singh Thakur, a BJP parliamentarian who is seeking a re-election from the Hamirpur seat.
Thakur, son of former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, was also the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India from May 2016 to February 2017.
State legislators Kishan Kapoor and Suresh Kashyap, who have a lot of influence in their respective regions, are also in the fray for the parliamentary polls. The Congress had fielded Aashray Sharma in Mandi to take on siting BJP MP Ram Swaroop Sharma.
The major issues were lack of jobs, prices of farm produce, water scarcity and national security.
The state depends heavily on tourism. However, this is a seasonal industry and a dearth of jobs in other sectors force the youth to often move to other states in search of employment.
The scarcity of water in summer is a cause for concern in Shimla. Tourist-heavy areas such as the state capital of Shimla face the problem of encroachments. In a Rajput-dominated state, national security was an emotive issue during the election.