Infightings and poor distribution of ticket did BJP in

Voters in Himachal Pradesh once again voted against the incumbent government and brought the Congress to power, giving it 36 of the 68 Assembly seats. The Bharatiya Janata Party, which was plagued by infightings and poor distribution of ticket, could win only 26 seats.

Accepting the people’s verdict, Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said that despite the best efforts of his government, which had come out with schemes that benefited all families in one form or the other, the anti-incumbency pattern of voting of the hill folk could not be reversed.

Overlooking issues such as a massive price rise in the past few months, corruption charges against the PCC chief and former Union Minister, Virbhadra Singh, and various scams under the UPA II regime, the people of Himachal brought the Congress back to power and once again decimated the third front that had raised hopes following anti-corruption movements all over the country, including the hill State.

The Himachal Lokhit Party, formed on the anti-corruption plank, suffered a major setback along with its alliance partners, the CPI(M) and the CPI. The front could capture only one seat, the winner being Himachal Lok Morcha president Maheshwar Singh from Kullu. But the Morcha played a major role in dividing the anti-Congress vote. Mr. Maheshwar Singh, who was a former president of the BJP and a four-time MP, effected a major defection in the party just a few months before the elections and played spoilsport. His group was openly supported by the Shanta Kumar faction in the BJP, who had himself refused to come out of the party but sent his supporters and anti-Dhumal forces into the Lokhit party.

All that Mr. Kumar said after the debacle was: “I want to accept the defeat of my party with modesty.”

The 78-year-old Virbhadra Singh won comfortably from the Shimla Rural constituency and Mr Dhumal won from his home turf of Hamirpur. Most of the stalwarts from both parties have won. CLP leader Vidya Stokes from Theog, Kaul Singh Thakur from Drang, G.S. Bali from Nagrota and Asha Kumar from Dalhousie are among the Congress winners. BJP Ministers Rajiv Bindal, Gulab Singh Thakur, Ravinder Singh Ravi, Ishwar Dass Dhiman, Sarveen Chaudhary, Jai Ram Thakur and State BJP president Satpal Satti have won comfortably from their constituencies. But Ministers Ramesh Dhawala, Krishan Kapoor and Narendra Bragta lost their seats. Prominent losers from the Congress are the former Speaker, Gangu Ram Musafir, the former Minsters, Ram Lal Thakur, Major (retd.) Vijai Singh Mankotia and Rangila Ram Rao.

The BJP had 41 seats in the outgoing House.

Now, with a clear majority, the only point of interest in the formation of the next government is whether the high command will allow the old horse to lead or bring about a change in leadership as it has done in neighbouring Haryana, where Bhupinder Singh Hooda replaced Bhajan Lal.