The Mayawati-lead, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), that has made its intentions clear that it will go alone in Himachal Pradesh and will contest on all the 68- seats in the state, may eat into the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) vote pie. While I’ve no survey to defend that statement, my assumption is, BJP which generally gets its majority of seats from lower Himachal, may find itself losing its vote share to the BSP. One because, for sure, Vijay Singh Mankotia would be the BSP’s Chief Ministerial candidate. Two, BSP will follow the Uttar Pradesh route by just not targeting the dalit voters but the Brahmin vote as well.
While the dalit voter is unlikely to dwindle from Upper Himachal, i.e. Shimla, Sirmour and Kinnaur, which has remained loyal with the Congress, the lower Himachal dalit voter may side with the BSP. If Mayawati is successful in wooing the Brahmin voter in lower Himachal, a la Uttar Pradesh, it will certainly eat into the BJP pie. Despite all odds, Vijay Singh Mankotia still commands a lot of respect in lower Himachal and can take away a few seats from the BJP or may tilt it in the Congress favour.
At the same time, while the news is not official, Congress may too find it tough if the news from my sources proves out to be true that it would not give tickets to candidates, which lost last time. All these candidates had lost seats with a margin of mere 2000-3000 votes. That sure is not a big number. It would not take time for these candidates to rebel and go with the BSP and tilt the equations in favour of the BSP. This may also lead to a hung assembly in the state for the first time. In such a scenario, I’m sure, the BSP or the Congress would like to side and support each other. Mayawati would, as is known very well, would not side with the BJP. But who knows, as one of the actors in the Bollywood movie – Page 3, says, “There are no permanent foes and friends in the entertainment business and politics.” Politics too is no different from entertainment.
Another point that goes against the BJP is that they are not going to disclose their Chief Ministerial candidate, to evade factionalism within the party. The war certainly would be between Shanta Kumar and Prem Kumar Dhumal. But the voter certainly would likely want to know the CM candidate. As for the Congress, the candidate is Virbhadra Singh. Vidya Stokes, the other candidate has fallen weak since the last elections.
While all these equations were being done when former Union Minister (Telecom) Sukh Ram formed the Himachal Vikas Congress (HVC), the party was able to win only a single seat. However, this time, BSP cannot be taken lightly. As per sources, she’ll be riding high on the media wave. Again, my journalist friends tell me that she gave away from Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 to journalists in her first press conference in the state, to keep the press happy and write in her favour. With elections nearing, even some of the newspapers’ marketing managers have redrawn their strategies to woo the money the BSP is going to spend. They aren’t leaving no stone unturned to send feelers to the party through small news items to editorials that they are there helping her spread ground if not in her favour at least spread the name – BSP. This in turn would lead to advertisements. Advertisements mean revenue for newspapers. While all parties try and woo the voter through ads through newspapers, and with the Election Commission keeping a close watch on the number of ads appearing and tallying them with the rate cards of newspapers, there is always a proxy route of subdued advertorials and journalist friends in Shimla are saying that all newspapers have sent feelers to the BSP that they’ll write articles in the party’s favour in exchange for money.
Money, as such has not been a constraint for BSP. Mayawati has had no qualms in accepting money. She’s been open about the claim that she’s unmarried and needs no money for herself and all money that she’s seeking is for the party and would go into the party-fund. This money would surely be put in media-blitz.
While the Election Commission can only keep a watch on ads and other accounted expenses, the Commission certainly cannot keep a tab on unaccounted money spent – and that applies to all parties, including BJP and Congress – who spend money giving away to voters, refreshments to party workers and others.
So let the fun begin. However, Himachal is a queer state, when it comes to equations. It has time and again proved all surveys and analysis wrong. So what damage the BSP will do to the BJP or to the Congress , only time will tell.