Political boundaries within the small hill destination of Himachal Pradesh demarcated by different colours are fast vanishing in the run-up to the Assembly polls for November 12.
For the first time in a recallable past, politicians and even voters are not wearing their loyalty in the form of traditional Himachali ‘topis’ (caps).
Since long the cap with maroon band in front reflects the BJP ideology and the green band is synonymous with the Congress. The former is the trademark of two-time Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and the latter of six-time Congress Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh.
Virbhadra Singh and Dhumal are out of the scene this time. Singh is dead, while Dhumal is virtually in political exile after his defeat in the previous Assembly polls.
Leading BJP’s campaign with the slogan ‘rivaj badlega’ (electoral traditions will change), star campaigner and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his four well attended public meetings within a week donned both the maroon and green band caps. In two rallies he was donning the traditional Kullu cap with a multi-colour border.
The concepts of “green” and “maroon” stem from upper and lower areas of the state. The green symbolises descendants of upper Himachal, while the maroon one represents lower Himachal.
The multi-colour cap unifies the entire state, a senior BJP leader remarked.
Donning of a particular cap started with the late Virbhadra Singh. He loved to don a green flap headgear, even during the summer. His supporters too prefer to wear this colour of cap to express their political solidarity with him.
Likewise, BJP leader Dhumal has made the maroon flap his trademark in both stints. Sharing the stage with Modi in his rally in Sujanpur in Hamirpur district on Wednesday, Dhumal was donning his traditional maroon flap headgear. Contrary, Modi preferred donning the multi-coloured cap.
However, in his previous rally in Sundernagar, Modi was donning the headgear that symbolizes with the Congress.
Addressing public meetings in Chambi on Wednesday, PM Modi slammed the Congress for not delivering basic needs to the people of Himachal for decades.
“The Congress still believes that the people of Himachal will vote for them as they believe in the formula of an alternative government every five years.
At his address in Sujanpur, Modi highlighted the time he had spent with the people of Himachal as a ‘karyakarta’ and told the people about his life during those days.
During an election rally in Sirmaur district, BJP leader Amit Shah took a swipe at the Congress by saying, “This time, maroon topi will be the BJP and green topi will also be the BJP.”
Shah claimed the BJP would trounce the Congress by ensuring win of both upper and lower parts of Himachal Pradesh.
During an election rally in Kangra district on November 6, Shah donned the multi-colour cap, indicating the party believes in changing the mindset of people of both upper and lower Himachal.
In fact, BJP’s Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, the youngest politician to be at the helm, took the lead to end the decades of politics over donning headgear.
Soon after taking the helm on December 24, 2017, five-time lawmaker Thakur, who advocates the need to brand state handicrafts and products like the woollen Himachali cap and shawls across the globe, said soon after becoming the Chief Minister had said the “time has come to bid farewell to cap politics in the state”.
For him, flaunting political loyalty on the head reflects a symbol of political divisions between the BJP and the Congress and areas too — old and new Himachal.
In his recent visit to Seraj, his home constituency in Mandi district, the Chief Minister was seen donning the green cap.
Outgoing Cabinet minister and four-time legislator Suresh Bhardwaj told IANS that he loves not only green and maroon but multicolour Kullavi and other Himachali caps.
“I wear them off and on. As far as politics is concerned, the time has changed. Our government in the state, under the guidance of Narendra Modiji, has done away with all this symbolism, ” he said.
Presenting a shawl and a Himachali cap is a common practice at official and public functions. There is a tradition in Kinnaur, the tribal-dominated district, to welcome guests with a garland of dry fruits and a round Kinnauri cap with a green flap.
The BJP in its poster war with the Congress is garnering support through photos of Prime Minister Modi wearing the traditional Himachali multi-coloured ‘topi’, besides the maroon cap.
However, the Congress leaders are strictly following its green band cap, except youngest legislator Vikramaditya Singh, son of the late Virbhadra Singh, who occasionally wears a maroon band cap.