A win in Himachal Pradesh saved the Congress party blushes on a day it was swept aside in Gujarat. As the party crossed the halfway majority mark of 35 in the 68-seat Assembly of the hill state, election in-charge of the party in HP, Rajiv Shukla, Rajiv Shukla lauded Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and other senior leaders for the leads in the state.
Till 5 pm, the Congress was leading in 40 seats and the BJP trailing with 25 leads.
While saying that the Congress will ensure to fulfill the ’10 guarantees’ the party announced in Himachal, asserted that if Congress wins, “we will do everything in the people’s interest as Priyanka Gandhi Vadra worked hard, and campaigned extensively”.
Priyanka Gandhi addressed several rallies and held roadshows in the state during the campaign which was given a miss by her brother Rahul Gandhi who was busy with his Bharat Jodo Yatra. It was her announcement at her first rally in Solan that the Congress will restore the old pension scheme (OPS) in the state that arguably gave the much-needed impetus to the party campaign in the state.
Spearheading the campaign
Priyanka spearheaded the Congress campaign in the state along with party leader and Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel, who was also one of the star campaigners.
Before addressing the rallies, Priyanka visited temples in various districts in the poll-bound state. She started with a visit to the Shoolini Temple in Solan, Bhootnath Temple in Mandi and Jwala Devi temple in Kangra.
She though did not make not any appeal on religious lines during her political rallies. She instead focused her attacks on the BJP government, both at the state level and at the Centre — claiming that the BJP government has put the state under a debt of Rs 70,000 crore and did not provide its staff with Diwali bonus, she also claimed at all her rallies that 63,000 government posts were lying vacant in the state.
At the ‘Parivartan Pratigya’ rally at Sataun in the Hattee-dominated trans-Giri area of Sirmaur district, she recalled Indira Gandhi’s contribution to the state.
Addressing a massive gathering at Shillai in Sirmaur district of Himachal Pradesh, Priyanka said: “Today, money and lies dominate the electoral discourse. Leaders make lofty promises and don’t even mention those promises in the next election after five years.”
She took a jibe at the BJP by alluding to mid-term change of governments in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh: “Which forces inject instability in the states by engineering defections and using money power to destabilise governments? You know everything.”
As in Uttar Pradesh, Priyanka deployed the same approach in Himachal. She stressed on the values of freedom struggle and principle of accountability and exhorted the people to make the right choice.
UP vs HP
Priyanka, who later undertook a door-to-door campaign in Shimla, had questioned the voters’ wisdom in the later part of elections in Uttar Pradesh earlier this year. She had then said the voters were deciding their preferences on caste and religious factors instead of judging a party on the basis of performance.
The Congress had posted its worst-ever performance in Uttar Pradesh. But in Himachal, her approach seemed to have worked.
She worked hard to ensure a positive swing in Congress’ favour in HP. Rajeev Shukla, her pick, was made the in-charge of HP and she, along with him, micromanaged the show as the party was going into election for the first time after the demise of stalwart like Virbhadra Singh.
Priyanka’s arrival at her residence at Chharabara, near Shimla, a day before the counting of votes was also noticed by the political circles in the state, signalling that she continues to be involved in state politics even after elections. The grapevine has it that she will also be involved in selecting the next chief minister of the state.