With just five days to go for the counting of votes in Himachal Pradesh, the BJP top leadership has decided to meet at Bilaspur on Friday for a closed-door interaction with the contesting candidates and state party office-bearers to chart a roadmap based on election surveys and upcoming exit polls. Chief Minsiter Virbhadra Singh has already announced to travel to Arki on December 15, his assembly constituency, to hold a meeting with Congress party workers.
Exit polls are expected to be out after the second phase of Gujarat voting on December 14. Confirming the meeting, state BJP president Satpal Satti said, “There is no formal agenda for the conclave but party’s top leaders wanted to exchange notes with the candidates and also brief them about future plans on the counting day and after.”
Expressing confidence of BJP forming the next government in the hill state, Satti said the meeting was called by the party’s national general secretary (organisation) Ram Lal to get a feedback from all 68 candidates about the prevailing mood. “The BJP is confident of winning the elections. There is a 100 per cent chance of the party forming the government after December 18. The candidates will be told about the party’s expectations and how the BJP will move ahead with its plans in forming the government and also the organisation. Most the candidates who were deputed for campaigning in Gujarat have also returned and will attend the meeting,” Satti said.
Besides BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal, veteran Shanta Kumar, Union Health Minister J P Nadda and MP Anurag Thakur will be attending the meeting. BJP has set a target of winning 50 plus seats but internal assessment by the party has revealed it might not touch the mark. A senior BJP leader said this was mainly due to the fact that the party did not name the chief ministerial candidate before the finalisation of the candidates.
“Had the leadership issue been resolved before the distribution of tickets, the party would have certainly won 50 plus seats,” the leader said. However, party’s Hamirpur candidate Narinder Thakur sand a different tune. “Had Dhumalji not been declared as CM candidate, the BJP would have suffered a major loss here,” Thakur said.
Dhumal contested from Sujanpur constituency this time and swapped his Hamirpur seat with Thakur. Dhumal was pitted against his estranged loyalist Rajinder Rana from Congress and the CM has already promised a top Cabinet berth on his election from Sujanpur. The BJP is eyeing to make big gains in Mandi district and improve its position in Kangra, which is the state’s biggest district and political nerve centre having 15 assembly seats.
Meanwhile Virbhadra Singh, who is camping in Delhi after returning from Kerala following an ayurvedic tratment, is expected to reach Shimla on Thursday. He will travel to Arki on December 15, his assembly constituency, to hold a meeting with the party workers. Amid concerns that the party had neglected Himachal Pradesh and focused more on Gujarat elections, PCC president Sukhwinder Sukhu said, “Congress is surely forming the next government. I wonder how some of our party leaders not sounding confident.”
Asked to explain the reason behind his confidence, Sukhu said, “This was the first time, perhaps, when the party fought the polls after formulating a proper strategy and did massive mobilisation on the ground. It was also the first time the Congress fielded so many young faces who worked at party forums.”
The state Congress president said the issue in the elections was not governance or the lack of it, but the BJP’s role as opposition in the past five years. “There was also confusion on leadership. When Amit Shah realised that the Narendra Modi card is not working and the party will lose badly, Dhumal’s name was proposed in a huff, letting down J P Nadda, who was initially sent to the state as the BJP’s face,” he said.