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Gujarat, Himachal poll RESULTS TODA
Verdict to have far-reaching implications for Cong, BJP
Anita Katyal/TNS

HP Win vital

With various exit polls predicting a big win for Gujarat CM Narendra Modi, it is critical for the Congress to win in Himachal Pradesh

If the Congress is defeated in Gujarat and HP, it will be a huge setback for the UPA government as the defeat will be attributed to the prevailing public sentiment against the Centre and its policies

Alternatively, if the Congress manages to win HP, it can look ahead with greater confidence, giving the necessary boost to the PMís reforms agenda

Modiís BIG DAY

The BJP will be on cloud nine if it is able to beat anti-incumbency and retain both Gujarat and Himachal

In case Modi improves on his last tally of 117 seats, as he is projected to do, it will increase his clout in the party and put him way ahead of other aspirants for PM-ship

But any move to name Modi as its next PM candidate will alienate its most important ally, JD-U leader and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar

New Delhi, December 19
The results of the Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat assembly polls to be declared tomorrow have evoked far more interest than any other state election in the recent past as the outcome has far-reaching implications for both the Congress and the BJP.

Going by the various exit polls, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is set to romp home for the third consecutive term with a thumping majority while the Congress and the BJP are locked in a close contest in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh. Some surveys have said Congress has an edge in Himachal Pradesh and could even unseat the ruling BJP government.

Since it it all set to lose Gujarat, it is critical for the Congress to win Himachal Pradesh. The party has faced a string of electoral defeats through the year while there is growing public disillusionment with the Congress-led UPA government which is beset with corruption charges and criticised for poor governance. The continuing rise in prices of essential commodities and the overall gloomy economic scenario has further added to the partyís woes.

A victory in Himachal Pradesh will help lift the spirits of the Congress cadres which have been feeling demoralised in the face of the partyís dipping popularity graph. On the other hand, Congress president Sonia Gandhiís recent efforts to strengthen the party organisation and begin preparations for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls could be jeopardised if the party is unable to win the hill state.

If the Congress is defeated in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, it will be a huge setback for the UPA government as the defeat will be attributed to the prevailing public sentiment against the Centre and its unpopular policies. Alternatively, if the Congress manages to win Himachal Pradesh, it can look ahead with greater confidence, giving the necessary boost to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to continue with his reforms agenda.

Predictably, the BJP will be on cloud nine if it is able to beat back anti-incumbency and retain both Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. It will enable the faction-ridden BJP to tout these victories as a reflection of the effective governance provided by their chief ministers.

However, a massive win will also result in further churning in the BJP which is already in the throes of a leadership crisis. In case Narendra Modi improves on his last tally of 117 seats, as he is projected to do, it will increase his clout in the party and result in a clamour from the party rank and file that he should be projected as the BJPís next PM candidate, putting him way ahead of the other aspirants in the party. 
But this will not be easy for the BJP as it realises that any move to name Modi as its next PM candidate will alienate its most important ally, Janata Dal (U) leader and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, who has made it clear that the Gujarat leader is not acceptable to him.

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Multi-cornered contests add drama to HP poll scene
Rakesh Lohumi/TNS

Shimla, December 19
The long and anxious wait of 459 candidates, including heavyweights like Chief Minister PK Dhumal, PCC Chief Virbhadra Singh, CLP Leader Vidya Stokes and state BJP Chief Satpal Satti, would come to an end tomorrow when the counting of votes for 68 Assembly seats takes place.

The silence of voters and the highest ever number of candidates in the fray has added to worries of most parties as number of seats witnessed a multi-cornered contest. Apart from rebels, the entry of the ĎThird Frontí, the Himachal Lok Morcha (HLM) - a three-party alliance formed by the breakaway BJP group, the Himachal Lokhit Party (HLP) with the CPM and the CPI - has made the poll scene all the more dramatic. The alliance is contesting 58 seats - the HLP (36), the CPM (15) and the CPI (7) - and it has extended support to three Independent candidates.

While Dhumal will monitor the poll results in his native village Samirpur in the Hamirpur district, Virbhadra Singh and Vidya Stokes will be stationed in the state capital. Kaul Singh has left for Mandi.

While the ruling BJP and the Opposition Congress are contesting all seats, the Bahujan Samaj Party, which won a solitary seat in the last election, has fielded candidates in 66 seats. Well-established regional parties like the NCP (13 seats), the Trinamool Congress (25), SP (14), the Lok Jan Shakti Party (17) and the Shiv Sena (4) are also in the fray. Some smaller groups, including Himachal Swabhiman Party (16), Indian Justice Party (1), Bhartiya Bahujan Party (2) and Hindustan Nirman Dal (1) are also trying their luck. There are 106 Independents in the fray.

Of the total 45,90,596 electorate, as many as 33,49,946, including 16,47,156 men 17,02,790 women, have exercised their right to franchise in single-phase voting on November 4. Over 33,000 postal ballots have been received taking the overall polling to 74.70%, the highest ever. Counting will place simultaneously at 39 centres across the state in as many halls.

Chief Electoral officer Narinder Chauhan said the counting will start at 8.00 am and the postal ballots would be taken up first. Thereafter, the votes captured in 9,191 electronic voting machines would be counted. In all, over 4,500 personnel would be involved in the exercise.

In the existing House, the BJP has 41 members, followed by the Congress (23), the BSP (1) and Independents 3.

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