In comparison, the state ruling BJP has largely discarded its veterans and reposed faith on comparatively younger faces with the slogan ‘rivaj badlega’ (electoral traditions will change), meaning to buck the trend to sweep the polls alternatively as both arch rivals ruled the state from 1985.
Out of 412 candidates in the fray, 24 are female and 388 male candidates. A total of 55,92,828 voters will elect their representatives. Of them, 193,106 are first-time voters in the age of 18-19 years. There are 121,409 voters above 80 years, while 56,501 voters with disabilities.
Among the eldest candidates, the Congress has fielded Col. Dhani Ram Shandil (82) from Solan; Chandra Kumar (78) from Jawali; Kaul Singh Thakur (76) from Drang; Thakur Singh Bharmouri (75) from Bharmour; Kishori Lal (75) from Baijnath and Khimi Ram (73) from Banjar.
Congress rebel Gangu Ram Musafir (77), who has been denied the party nomination, is contesting as an Independent from Pachhad.
The youngest candidate is Piyush Kanga (26), who is in fray from Bilaspur as an Independent.
The others are Chaitanya Sharma (28) of the Congress from Gagret; Jabna Kumari (29) of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) from Nachan; Puja (29) of the Himachal Jan Kranti Party from Bharmour, Manisha Kumari (30) of AAP from Nurpur; Kishori Lal (31) of the CPI(M) from Karsog; Vikramaditya Singh (33) of the Congress from Shimla (Rural); and Deep Raj (34) of the BJP from Karsog.
The BJP has denied the party ticket to 11 sitting legislators, shifting seats of two ministers, denying nomination to one minister, whose son has been fielded from that constituency, and swapping seats of two veterans owing to infighting.
The grand old party, which is trying to build up its ground on slogan ‘Himachal ka Sankalp, Congress hi Vikalp’ (For Himachal’s resolve, the Congress is the only alternative), has retained all its 20 outgoing lawmakers.
Its two legislators — Pawan Kajal from Kangra and Lakhwinder Singh Rana from Nalagarh — in the 68-member House had joined the BJP and in the fray again from their respective seats.
Both traditional archrivals — the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress — have been contesting on all 68 Assembly constituencies, while the AAP, in its maiden fray to the Assembly polls, has announced fielded 67 candidates.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is in fray on 53 seats, the Rashtriya Devbhoomi Party on 29, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) on 11, the Himachal Jan Kranti Party on six, the Hindu Samaj Party and the Swabhiman Party on three seats each and one seat each by the Himachal Janata Party, the Bhartiya Veer Dal, the Sainik Samaj Party, the Rashtriya Lok Niti Party and the Communist Party of India.
A total of 99 Independent candidates are also in the fray.
As per the state electoral office, the maximum number of 11 candidates are in fray from the Jogindernagar Assembly constituency, while the minimum number of three candidates each are contesting from Churah Assembly in Chamba district, Lahaul-Spiti Assembly and Drang Assembly in Mandi district.
Political observers told IANS the rebels are more vocal in the BJP compared to the Congress, though both parties have been gripped with infighting, besides the ruling party facing anti-incumbency.
The Congress expelled its six leaders for rebelling against the party candidates.
They included former Speaker Gangu Ram Musafir, who had lost 2012 and 2017 elections. The party opted for a BJP turncoat Dayal Pyari and ignored Musafir’s claim. He is in fray as an Independent from Pacchad in Sirmaur district.
For the BJP, it has almost dumped its two former chief ministers and stalwarts — Shanta Kumar and Prem Kumar Dhumal — citing the party’s policy of not holding any post in the government and the organisation after 75 years of age. Both are almost a miss from the party’s poll campaigns and election strategy.
The prominent saffron faces who were denied ticket include legislator Kishori Lal from Anni and BJP state vice-president Ram Singh from Kullu. Both are contesting as an Independent from their respective seats.
In Mandi, the home district of Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, and Kullu districts, the prominent rebels include Abhishek Thakur, son of six-time legislator Roop Singh, from Sundernagar; and Hiteshwar Singh, the son of Maheshwar Singh, from Banjar. They are in the fray as an Independent.
Maheshwar Singh, the scion of the erstwhile Kullu estate, was earlier the BJP’s candidate from Kullu town. The party later withdrew his candidature after he failed to convince his son Hiteshwar Singh to withdraw his nomination as an Independent from Banjar.
Interestingly, in Banjar seat in Kullu district Hiteshwar Singh and Congress candidate Khimi Ram, both BJP’s turncoats, are posing a challenge to sfarron party’s outgoing lawmaker Surinder Shourie.
Political observers told IANS the BJP is facing strong dissent after the allocation of tickets in Dharampur, Karsog, Jogindernagar and Darang constituencies in Mandi district, which may upset BJP’s applecart.
From Dharampur, the stronghold of Cabinet minister Mohinder Thakur, the BJP has nominated his son, Rajat Thakur from where the lawmaker’s daughter Vandana Guleria has earlier raised a banner of revolt.
She accused her father of promoting patriarchy. She asked the party “why the daughters are denied their rights amidst its welfare programmes to empower womenfolk like Beti Hai Anmol”.
As the name of his brother cleared, Vandana resigned from the post of general secretary of the BJP Mahila Morcha.
At Karsog constituency, the supporters of BJP MLA Hira Lal have been gunning the BJP high command for giving ticket to a new candidate.
The supporters of former BJP minister Gulab Singh Thakur, the father-in-law of Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur, are upset as the party has given ticket to Prakash Rana, the sitting legislator from Jogindernagar who won the election as an independent and later joined the BJP.
Upset supporters of Cabinet ministers Suresh Bhardwaj and Rakesh Pathania are questioning the high command over changing their stronghold seats at the last minute.
In politically significant Kangra district, sitting lawmaker Ramesh Dhawla was shifted to Dehra from Jawalamukhi, while former minister Ravinder Singh Ravi, a loyalist of Dhumal, who announced to quit the BJP if denied party’s ticket, shifted to Jawalamukhi from his traditional seat Dehra.
Ravi lost to the independent legislator Hoshyar Singh, who joined the BJP in June.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur was keen to field Hoshyar Singh from Dehra but Dhumal opposed his nomination. He even apprised BJP national President Jagat Prakash Nadda about the possibility of ‘revolt’ by former minister Ravi for ignoring his interest.
Justifying the changes in ticket allocations, a senior BJP leader told IANS: “In a bid to counter the anti-incumbency factor, we have introduced new faces and changed seats.”
The Congress, too, is not lagging in infighting.
BJP leader Indu Verma, the wife of three-time legislator Rakesh Verma, in July joined the Congress. She was inducted into the party for giving a shot in the arm but she was denied the party ticket from her husband’s stronghold Theog in Shimla district.
Polling in Himachal Pradesh will take place on November 12, while the counting of ballots on December 8.
There are over 55 lakh eligible voters in the state, for whom 7,881 polling stations have been set up. Of the voters, 28,54,945 are male electors, 27,37,845 female and 38 third gender voters.