Pradesh, a tiny Indian state located in the foothills of the Himalayas, goes to
polls on Saturday, November 12. The state will elect a 68-member legislative
assembly. Jai Ram Thakur, of the BJP, the sitting chief minister of Himachal
has had a relatively smooth ride as the state’s CM. He is only one among two
BJP CM’s who are likely to get a second chance as chief minister if the BJP win
the 2022 Assembly elections.

While the
state has had stable governance over the last five years, it’s not as if the
political establishment is not in contest. The Congress, which had a strong
presence in the state for years but saw the party’s fortunes in the state sink
since 2014, will be attempting to outdo itself. A third contender in the scheme
of things is Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

The 2017
elections in Himachal were a failed launch for AAP. This year, the party has
focussed primarily in Gujarat. AAP may not be a serious contender in the state,
but Arvind Kejriwal’s party’s performance in Punjab shows that Aam Aadmi’s
fortunes take sudden leaps of faith.

In a
tripartite contest with BJP emerging as clear favourites, here are the likely
contenders for the chief ministership of Himachal Pradesh:

1.       Jai Ram Thakur, BJP

Jai Ram Thakur, 57, had to step into chief
ministership after BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal lost the
elections from Sujanpur. Thakur has been a member of the Himachal Pradesh
legislative assembly since 1998. An RSS man, Jai Ram Thakur has the public
image of being a clean, efficient leader and administrator. Thakur is contesting
the elections from Himachal’s Seraj constituency.

2.       Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, Congress

Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, 58, is a three-time MLA
from Himachal Pradesh. Sukhu has played key roles as the grand old party’s man
in the hill state and was appointed Congress’ chairman of the election
campaign. In 2017, the Congress won 21 seats out of 68 while BJP won 44.

If the Congress comes to power in Himachal, an
unlikely event considering the reigning political dynamics, Sukhu is one of the
party’s chief ministerial candidates, at least unofficially. He is fighting the
elections from Nadaun assembly constituency.  

However, Singh has said, “The party is contesting
elections under collective leadership. High command will decide the chief
minister, if we are voted to power in Himachal. I am not keen on the position.”

3.       Rajan Sushant, Aam Aadmi Party  

There is speculation within the media and India’s
political observers that Arvind Kejriwal has given up on Himachal and has
focussed all its energies on Gujarat. Therefore, chances of an AAP government
in the hill state are near impossible. This is perhaps also why AAP has not
named a chief ministerial candidate for the party.

Rajan Sushant, a former BJP MP and a firebrand
leader in his times, is AAP’s best bet among its candidates. While with the
BJP, he was accused of anti-party activities and was forced out in 2013. A
former MP from Kangra district, Sushant has fought an Independent battle since
he was removed from the party. This year, he has AAP by his side and is the
party’s most prominent candidate on November 12.