It’s Rajput vs Rajput in Himachal polls
Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s final round of campaigning in Himachal Pradesh this week, the BJP on Tuesday announced Prem Kumar Dhumal, a Rajput, as chief ministerial candidate to take on Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, also a Rajput, for the November 9 Assembly polls. Rajputs hold 35 per cent of the electoral turf in the State.
Against the backdrop of the electoral history of Himachal Pradesh that has not repeated a Government except that in 1985, the BJP is hopeful that it could convincingly oust the Congress regime. The BJP hopes that the alleged taint of corruption, misrule, and anger will impede 83-year-old Singh’s attempt for the sixth term.
Over the years, the BJP has gained massive ground in the state with Shanta Kumar forming the first BJP Government from March 5, 1990 to December 15, 1992, and Dhumal from March 24, 1998 to March 5, 2003. In the outgoing Assembly, the Congress has 36 seats, while the BJP has 26.
The Rajput caste identity of Dhumal, 73, has again worked in his favour. Union Health Minister JP Nadda was also probable for the CM’s post. He is a Brahmin, which constitutes 20 per cent of votebank. The November 9 poll is heading for a climax as Modi would be campaigning in three to four places, including Mandi and Una, between November 2 and 5.
In the caste arithmetic, Dalits constitute 25 per cent votes, and Sikhs 10 per cent. Ghirth and Rathis are other prime communities in the State which has only two per cent Muslims.
While the Congress and the BJP are wooing Rajputs by projecting same caste chief ministerial candidates, both the parties have also kept Dalit population in mind by appointing Dalit election- in-charges — Sushil Kumar Shind for the Congress and Union Minister Thawarchand Gehlot for the BJP.
Unemployment is seen to be the biggest issue which may overshadow the factors like choice of CM candidate or even caste equations.
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