BJP is harping on its tried-and-true campaign message of the Modi government’s strong nationalism mixed with a not-so-subtle Hindutva appeal
Mid-sized billboards in towns and villages in Himachal Pradesh feature a smiling Prime Minister Narendra Modi looking down while donning a Himachali cap. One declares, “370 hatane wali sarkar, aatankwaad par karara prahar (The administration dealt a blow to terrorists by repealing Article 370)”. Ayodhya and Varanasi are just two of the pilgrimage sites that are discussed in another.
There have also been billboards showing caricatures of Modi holding Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, with the message, “One candidate, a worthy one like Jai Ram.” The slogan “Kursi ek, umeedwar anek (One chair, numerous applicants)” emphasizes the contrast to the several “chief ministerial candidates” in the rival Congress.
However, the CM’s hometown of Mandi is where this overt display of support for Thakur is most noticeable. The “achievements” of the Thakur administration are constantly added on to those of Modi’s outside of India.
One week remains for voting in the hill state
Just one week remains until voting in the hill state, and the BJP is sticking to its tried-and-true campaign message of the Modi government’s strong nationalism mixed with a not-so-subtle Hindutva appeal. They are also insisting that the state should continue to have a “double-engine government.”
However, the party is concerned about the apparent unhappiness among government workers and pensioners, a significant class of voters, over the impending demand to reinstate the old pension scheme (OPS), as well as the apparent unhappiness among young people over the “lack of government job recruitments” and restlessness among apple growers.
Patry is facing unexpected rebel trouble
The Congress, which has not won a state election on its own since 2018, has plenty of hope that the state will uphold its tradition of ousting the incumbent, especially in light of the unusual rebel trouble the ruling party is facing in many districts (including in BJP national president J P Nadda’s Bilaspur).
Jobs are mostly found in the tourism, government, and apple trade in a state with few other industries due to geographic restrictions. And, despite the apparent rightward tilt in the voters in a state with a negligible Muslim population, that is where the BJP is feeling the heat.
Even odd Congress members praise Modi for repealing Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, boosting the nation’s “saakh (prestige),” showing “Pakistan its place,” and pursuing a tough foreign policy. Modi’s popularity also mostly remains steady.
However, in the lower Himachal districts of Una, Kangra, Hamirpur, Bilaspur, and Mandi, the focus is primarily on local candidates and their accomplishments. Moreover, the OPS, a lack of employment opportunities, and the contentious Agniveer defence hiring programme are the three main issues. The state arguably has the highest proportion of Army personnel to its population. Additionally, a decision about pensions will have an influence on nearly 1.3 lakh government employees.
Driver Surender Pal of the state Jal Shakti Department in Una is unabashed in his criticism. He claims that he will choose Lotus in 2024, despite having supported the BJP in 2017 and 2019. However, he is unable to forget CM Thakur’s remark that government workers calling for the OPS need to resign from their positions and run for office. How is that even possible? Is it wrong to want a pension after a lifetime spent working for the government? “MLAs have pensions, too,” he claims.
Congress promised to bring OPS
The Congress has pledged to create one lakh employment, bring back the OPS, and give each woman a financial aid package worth Rs. 1,500. Though, in the whole speech it was interesting that the Bharat Jodo Yatra, which was conducted by Rahul Gandhi, was not mentioned.
More significantly, the OPS has been resurrected in both the Congress-ruled states of Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
Thakur charged the Congress
A budget of Rs 51,000 crore was proposed by the Thakur administration for 2022–2023. “The party will reinstate the OPS, according to the Congress. Take a look at how they are doing in the states where they have a government. The BJP will be the only party to present a real answer to OPS”, Thakur recently stated.