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Even as all eyes are trained on Gujarat and a confident Narendra Modi, Himachal Pradesh now has spent full 46 days speculating what those sealed EVMs have in store. Unlike Gujarat, the state is locked in a neck-and-neck battle, with the exit polls on Monday confirming that the Congress led by Virbhadra Singh just has a slight edge over the BJP's incumbent chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal.
It isn't just the two parties that are in an uncertain limbo, however. With the model code in place since the poll process began — voting was on November 4 — Himachal too has been stuck in an administrative paralysis. Government functioning has been at a halt, forget development, and the valuable third quarter of the annual Plan utilisation virtually went to waste.
Fresh bids for new road projects, irrigation schemes, maintenance works, allotment of hydro-power projects could not be issued. More than 125 detailed project reports for new road projects under the PMGSY remain pending for approvals, half-a-dozen national highway projects await sanctions, while investments in the industrial, power, tourism and infrastructure sectors remain held up. Foreign-funded projects in the forestry, roads and other sectors too slowed down. Meanwhile, most bureaucrats and government servants have been on holiday. The Election Commission needs to answer Himachal's 45.33 lakh voters — 75 per cent of whom exercised their franchise, the highest count ever — if such a long hold-up really serves any purpose, other than causing small states big losses.
As for governance, the deadlock may continue if the two main parties end up with 40-41 per cent share each, as is being predicted. In case of a hung Assembly, both the Congress and BJP would be eyeing Independents — a record 106 are in the race — apart from BJP rebels to take them past the half-way mark of 34.