New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has given tickets to 21 new faces in the upcoming Himachal Pradesh elections, accommodating young candidates and first-timers for a direct contest with the ruling Congress.
There are 14 first-timers in the list of 21, including Anil Sharma, whose father, former Union minister Sukh Ram quit the Congress recently to join the BJP.
“We do not want a generation gap in the party and want a good working relationship between the youth and the elder leaders. You will see BJP gives chances to young, educated people to come forward and work for the state. This is also an opportunity for us to promote our state cadre by fielding them in the Himachal elections," said Satpal Singh Satti, BJP state president.
Senior BJP leaders said the party had selected the candidates on the basis of their ability to win elections, while keeping a mix of youth and experience in the list.
“The BJP promotes younger leaders to contest elections because it gives an opportunity to fresh talent to make an electoral mark at the state level. The candidates have been chosen on the basis of several rounds of field surveys conducted by the BJP. While we have retained several senior leaders, including Prem Kumar Dhumal, the former chief minister, the list gives an opportunity for younger generation to perform on the big stage," said a second BJP leader on condition of anonymity.
The BJP has fielded six women while the Congress has fielded three for Himachal elections. The nomination of veteran Congress leader and eight-time MLA Vidya Stokes was cancelled at the last minute on technical grounds, leaving Rajya Sabha MP Viplove Thakur; Dalhousie MLA Asha Kumari; who is also the in-charge of Punjab; and Champa Thakur as the only women candidates.
Prominent women candidates of the BJP include Vijay Jyoti Sain, who is the sister-in-law of Pratibha Singh, the wife of chief minister Virbhadra Singh and Indu Gauswamy, the president of the BJP’s state Mahila Morcha.
The BJP has not announced its chief ministerial candidate for the Himachal Pradesh elections, even though Dhumal’s name features on the candidate list. Moreover, the former chief minister’s constituency has also been changed from Hamirpur to Sujanpur.
Chief minister Virbhadra Singh will be the face of the Congress for the elections, party vice-president Rahul Gandhi told an election rally in Mandi on 7 October.
The Himachal Pradesh elections will be held on 9 November and counting is set for 18 December.
During the general elections in 2014, the BJP won all four Lok Sabha seats in the state and the party is keen to maintain its hold on the state.
Analysts said the BJP list shows that the party wants to tap into the youth voters of Himachal Pradesh. “Voters in Himachal are extremely vigilant when it comes to electing MLAs. Parties have to thus be careful and keep in mind the winnability of candidates before nominating them. In an election, the cadre vote always goes to their respective parties while it is the floating vote which becomes the deciding factor. The BJP is, thus, trying to tap the youth vote in this election," said Vikas Singh, assistant professor of political science at Himachal Pradesh University in Shimla.