The outgoing Prem Kumar Dhumal government held its last Cabinet meeting here on Friday and recommended a resolution to dissolve the Himachal Pradesh Assembly. Mr. Dhumal later submitted his resignation to Governor Urmila Singh, which would be accepted after her return from New Delhi.
Earlier in the day, he held a review meeting with senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders at his residence to ascertain the reasons for the party’s narrow defeat. BJP spokesman Ganesh Dutt thanked the people, but said faulty distribution of ticket at many places led to the party’s defeat.
Poor showing in Kangra, Shimla districts
Mr. Dhumal also held the party’s poor performance in Kangra and Shimla districts responsible for this unexpected debacle. The party got just 3 seats out of 15 in Kangra and won the lone seat of Shimla urban out of the 8 seats in Shimla district.
Sources in the party squarely blamed senior national vice president Shanta Kumar for the defeat. Mr. Kumar had fanned defection from the party to the Himachal Lokhit Party and was responsible for giving ticket to some lightweights instead of winnable candidates in Kangra, they said. He was also instrumental in allotting ticket to his supporters in Dharamsala, Jawalamukhi, Baijnath, Palampur, Sulah, Indora, Nurpur, Nagrota Bagwan and Jawali, the sources alleged. All these candidates lost. Two party rebels — Pawan Kajal from Kangra maintown and Manohar Dhiman from Indora — won against the BJP’s official candidates.
Mr. Dhumal, who did not get even a formal request from these candidates to canvass in their constituencies, had to avoid campaigning there, said party insiders. The BJP even lost from Palampur, Mr. Kumar’s hometown from where he monitors State politics. Calling it a big surprise, the insiders said two of Mr. Dhumal’s loyalists from the Dehra sub-division of Kangra that falls in Hamirpur parliamentary constituency, Ravinder Ravi from Dehra and Bikram Thakur from Jaswan-Paragpur, comfortably won their seats, whereas Civil Supplies Minister and Mr. Kumar’s protégé, Ramesh Dhawala, lost his seat from Jawalamukhi. Another Dhumal associate, Sarveen Chaudhary, defeated the high profile Congress leader, Vijai Singh Mankotia, from Shahpur.
Mr. Dhumal himself said “just four seats in Kangra could have brought us back to power.”
On the other hand Mr. Kumar, who was unavailable for comment, was widely appreciated by Pradesh Congress chief Virbhadra Singh as “the only gentleman leader in the BJP.”
Mr. Singh and Congress have many a time welcomed Mr. Kumar’s anti-Dhumal stance. His group’s 7 sitting MLAs had revolted against their own BJP government during Mr. Dhumal’s first tenure, said the spokesman.
Fight for Chief Ministership
Meanwhile, Congress leaders have begun fighting over who would become the next Chief Minister. Many leaders in the anti-Virbhadra Singh group have moved to Delhi seeking the blessings of the high command. Party observers Janardan Dwivedi and Shiela Dixit are coming for assessing the situation in the State Congress on Saturday and might decide on a unanimous choice for electing a new CLP leader. In case the high command refuses to back him due to corruption charges against him, Virbhadra Singh might agree on the name of octogenarian leader Vidya Stokes for the post, said the sources.