The Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections are set to be a close contest, with the BJP holding a slight edge over the Congress, if exit polls are anything to go by. While the Opposition party is hoping that the state’s electorate will stick to the three-decade tradition of voting out the incumbent government, the BJP on Tuesday said the exit poll surveys confirmed the claim that it would buck the trend and return to power.
The Congress reiterated that Himachal sarkar (government) and not riwaz (tradition) would change. “The exit polls are not a new thing and all the channels do it in every election. There is always an issue of errors in them and their correctness. There is always a question mark on the sample size and accuracy of the exit polls,” said state Congress vice-president Naresh Chauhan.
Punjab Congress leader Partap Singh Bajwa, who was party’s one of the observers for November 12 elections, dismissed the exit polls that majorly gave an edge to ruling BJP.
“Congress will win 40 or more seats in Himachal Pradesh. Exit polls will go wrong and hundred per cent Congress will form the government in Himachal Pradesh. We are comfortably placed,” said Bajwa.
Exit polls had on Monday predicted a dead heat in Himachal Pradesh, with a range of 24-41 seats for the BJP and 20-40 seats for the Congress. In the 68-member Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha, a party needs 35 seats to form the government.
The Opposition party claimed that as per the internal surveys and feedback, it would get a comfortable majority by bagging more than 40 seats in the 68-member Assembly. “The BJP’s happiness over the exit polls will be shortlived as the reality is that the Congress will emerge victorious,” Chauhan said.
The party said the heavy voter turnout was indicative of resentment against the Jai Ram Thakur-led government. The Congress also pointed out that it was the first time in state politics that a ruling party had lost all the bypolls. Bajwa said Congress’ poll promises of reviving old pension scheme, Rs 1500 per month to women, resentment against Agniveer scheme and anguish amongst apple growers over meager price of their produce was set to cost BJP dear. He said the BJP rebels, who contested the polls as Independents, were likely to support the Congress after winning.
Shortly after the exit poll results came out on Monday evening, All India Congress Committee (AICC) Himachal in-charge Rajiv Shukla tweeted that the party would win a majority in the elections.
The BJP, meanwhile, reposed its faith in the exit polls. “The exit polls have given the party 32 to 40 seats. This is a safe position and we will form the government. The party has worked for all sections of society and it shows. The Congress has lied to the public and the results will be in front of everyone,” said BJP state general secretary Trilok Jamwal. State BJP president Suresh Kashyap said heavy voting by the women electorate and the overall 76.61 per cent polling in the assembly elections was an indication that the saffron party would again form the government in the state. In a statement, Kashjyap said the election results would be far more favorable than predicted in exit polls.
Meanwhile, Bajwa trashed BJP poll plank of “double engine government”, saying it was “rather a troubled engine government with CM Jairam Thakur not doing much”.
On several party leaders staking claim for CM post, Bajwa, who addressed around a half dozen of rallies in the hill state, said, “Legislative party would hold a meeting in that regard and party high command would take a decision based on recommendations of party legislators.”
The BJP too held a meeting of the national-level office bearers of the BJP in Delhi and party officials from Himachal Pradesh participated in it.
The counting of votes will take place on December 8.