Voters’ silence stumps kitchen politics players

In the wave-less Himachal Pradesh Assembly election, if there was one issue that appeared to touch a raw nerve with the masses in the run-up to November 4, it was the Centre's move to put a cap on subsidised LPG cylinders. Following this, Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal appeared to have hit a masterstroke by promising free induction cookers to the people if he was voted back to power. Interlinked, both had a mammoth appeal. In the final analysis, however, they did not seem to make much of a difference.

Hoping to replicate what the SAD achieved earlier this year in Punjab, Dhumal saw the LPG issue as the perfect rallying point to reach out to the people. His entire campaign revolved around the kitchen and how he planned to make things easy on the pocket by distributing electric induction cookers free of cost — first to the poorest of the poor and subsequently to all. The best counter the Congress could offer to this was a last-minute half-hearted assertion that induction cookers were harmful for pregnant women.

Much like the Akalis, Dhumal also chose to focus on development plank and how the Congress-led UPA II had discriminated against his government on various fronts. None of it, unlike Punjab, seemed to cut any ice with the Himachal voter.

It was the silence of the voters — quite uncharacteristic in Himachal — that intrigued even the most seasoned of politicians these elections. Punjab, that saw a similar kind of silence during the run-up to its Assembly polls, ended up voting back the incumbent SAD back to office. This probably was the reason why the BJP was reading this silence as an endorsement of its governance.

Armed with the induction cooker, an appliance that was creating waves across the state, the party was hoping to achieve a never before — a second consecutive shot a power. That very silence, following Thursday's results, is now being interpreted as the electorate's desire for a change and its reluctance to air it openly fearing a backlash.

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