Though the arch lights are more towards the big battle in Gujarat, the poll scene in Himachal Pradesh, which too is scheduled to go to polls, is no less interesting.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which secured a landslide victory in 2007 by winning 42 of the 69 seats, will be fighting it out under the leadership of Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal against the Congress party led by Virbhadra Singh.
The Congress, which is under pressure from all over the country because of various scams and sky-high prices, will have to fight tooth and nail to dislodge the incumbent BJP. It is also a litmus test for the saffron party ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The important issues on which the elections would be fought are:
Corruption will surely be the main poll plank in the upcoming assembly polls. The BJP is all set to go all guns blazing against the Congress. Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal has already announced that his party will highlight the graft issues and anti-centre policies which have hurt the development of the state.
It is expected that the BJP will focus on scams unearthed at the national level during the UPA-II rule like the 2G scam, CWG scam and the Coalgate to capitalise on the sentiments of the anti-Congress mood.
The schemes undertaken during BJP’s rule like - Atal Free School uniform scheme, Atal Bijli Bachat Yojana, Pt Deen Dayal Kisan Bagwan Samridhi Yojana and Doodh Ganga Yojana are expected to be highlighted by the party during the campaigning.
While the BJP is expected to harp on alleged corruption by Virbhadra Singh, it will also have much to explain about the taint on party president Nitin Gadkari.
At a time when the whole country is reeling under the pressure of rising fuel and food prices, inflation will certainly be one of the most crucial factors at the time of campaigning. While, the incumbent BJP will try to blame the Congress-led Centre for the rising prices, the Congress would want to shift the burden by questioning the state government on taxes. The Congress will also try to capitalise on the recent reform policies announce by the UPA-II, which the BJP has opposed.
Himachal Pradesh polls is a litmus test for Congress strong man Virbhadra Singh who has been facing allegation of corruption and scams. Following the charges, Singh was relieved off his duties as Union steel minister and dispatched to his home turf to lead the Congress campaign and bring back the grand old party in power.
The Congress veteran, who has a strong hold in Himachal politics, is facing allegations that a private firm had made payments to "VBS" - being construed as the short form of Virbhadra Singh- during his tenure. BJP is already out with all its guns blazing and has demanded a Special Investigation Team probe into revelations that Ispat Industries Limited had allegedly made payments to bureaucrats and officials in steel and coal ministries during 2009-10.
Virbhadra Singh has a tough job ahead to bring back the rattled Congress into power.
Annandale ground row
The Congress is expected to take on the ruling BJP in Himachal Pradesh in connection with Shimla`s Annandale ground over construction of a multipurpose stadium.
The issue has turned out to be a huge bone of contention between the state government and the Indian Army. The row is linked to the prime chunk of 121-bigha (one bigha is 0.4 hectare) Annandale ground, surrounded by thick forests and situated 4.5 km from Shimla`s ridge, which has been under the Army`s control since the World War II.
The Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association, which is headed by Dhumal`s son and Hamirpur MP Anurag Thakur, has begun a campaign to get the ground restored to the state government for constructing a multipurpose stadium.
Importantly, many residents are dead set against the state`s move to set up a multipurpose stadium in the area.