A formidable third front has long eluded the polity of the hill state where the Congress and the BJP hold sway over voters.
This upcoming elections is no different. There was earlier a grimmer of hope with talks about the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) making its Assembly poll debut in Himachal Pradesh. But that, too, is now grounded with the AAP deciding against contesting.
This, despite the fact that the AAP, dubbed a political greenhorn, made sizable footprints in neighboring Punjab after it won 20 seats in a keenly fought triangular contest less than nine months ago.
Interestingly, the Samajwadi Party (SP) has fielded one candidate this election. Mayawatis BSP and the CPM, too, are in the poll fray, but none of these parties have been able to generate a narrative that tends to help them in elections.
The lack of a third front limits options for voters. The desirability of a credible face to lead a third front also leaves much to be desired.
Their political worth in Uttar Pradesh notwithstanding, political outfits like the SP and the BSP have remained reduced to fringe parties in Himachal Pradesh.
The SP has been fielding candidates in Himachal Pradesh since 1998.
In the previous poll, the Samajwadi Party fielded 15 candidates with a record high of 20 in 2003. But the party never won even one seat and its vote share remained a dismal 0.1% in the last election.
All its candidates lost security deposits.
This time the SP has just one candidate, the poorest of all in the poll fray.
The BSP, too, is contesting on fewer seats since last poll- down to 42 this time. The CPM, which is believed to have a voter base in state capital Shimla, won its lone seat way back twenty-four years ago.
Its contesting from just 14 seats this time. The number of independents have gone up and poses a tough challenge to mainstream party candidates.
The AAP had contested all four parliamentary seats in the hill state in 2012, but lost all. Party sources said despite the local unit projecting an encouraging voter base and seeking funds to contest, the central leadership of the AAP did not respond.
Young voters in focus
Political parties in Himachal Pradesh are vying to woo the significant chunk of young voters in the state.
Nearly 51% of the registered voters in the state fall in the age group of 18-40, while 36% are in the 25-40 age category.
Despite projecting 73-year-old Prem Kumar Dhumal as its Chief Ministerial candidate, the BJP is building its narrative around Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
It is promising development and more jobs with the BJP governments in both state and Centre.
Manifestoes and vision documents of both Congress and BJP highlight a slue of measures for the youth. The grand old party has promised lakhs of jobs and free laptops to the states youngsters.
BJP is facing this Assembly polls with the advantage of getting significant leads in all Assembly segments during the 2014 Lok Sabha poll, despite being ousted in 2012.
Ironically, both the parties have fielded veterans despite focusing on young voters.
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