HP saffron surge makes Cong pull out all stops

One-time capital of the British Raj, hill town Shimla, continues with some of its archaical practices in all its modern day glory.

Each morning at 10 am, a loud siren reverberates in the entire hill terrain for a minute. The sound, akin to a haunting factory hooter alert to a panic situation, tells people it's time to step into offices. The siren drill is repeated at 5 pm, signaling the end of day's work.

The picturesque Mall and the connecting Ridge is chock-o-block within no time. It's election season. Hordes huddle to discuss politics. The popular Indian coffee house too has the same recipe brewing over a hot cup of coffee in plummeting temperatures.

A change of guard is being talked about, but an overwhelming sentiment, that was palpable in the previous elections, appears missing, at least so far. Fluttering BJP flags surround you with an overdose of saffron hitting the eye just as one passes by Kandaghat and destinations towards Shimla, ahead and many other locations. BJP rallies are drawing encouraging crowds, the Congress closely in tandem.

It's the Modi narrative pitted against the might of the Congress. The saffron party has preferred to stick to its stable formula of projecting Modi in a state election. Its jingles on radio lure people with a lethal combo- 'Modi at the centre and the lotus in HP'. People argue in favour of a slim margin of victory.

Advantage BJP

The burden of the corruption stain that Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh carries, is baggage for the Congress. His corruption charges are an election issue. The rape and gruesome murder of a minor girl in Khotkhai, and the shoddy investigation thereafter, is fresh in the minds of people who are generally oblivious to such heinous crimes. Much to the chagrin of the Congress, the BJP is going hammer and tongs on this issue projecting it as a breakdown of law and order.

The fault lines within the BJP has the Congress smiling. It's cadre feels this election will be unlike previous ones when governments haven't repeated. Traders talk about the problems of GST with impunity. The BJP knows its problems, but is well aware of the solutions. For now, its advantage BJP.

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