Keeping alive the State’s record of changing governments at every election, Himachal Pradesh on Monday brought the BJP back to power with a handsome margin.
The Congress was reduced to just 21 seats in a House of 68 and most of its Cabinet Ministers also lost the elections. The BJP won 44 seats . Two independents and one CPI(M) member also registered victories.
However, the results were not without upsets for both parties, with stalwarts tasting defeat.
The BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal lost the elections from Sujanpur in his home district of Hamirpur to one of his earlier supporters Rajendra Rana, who fought the elections on the Congress ticket this time. The BJP’s State president Satpal Satti, facing anti-incumbency in Una as a three-time MLA, also lost.
Third time BJP MLA Virender Kanwar from Kutlehar was the first to offer his seat to Mr. Dhumal should he wish to contest again. However, the BJP seems inclined to look for a new chief ministerial candidate. The names of Union Minister Jagat Prakash Nadda, RSS-backed Jai Ram Thakur and senior leaders Rajiv Bindal from Nahan and Shimla MLA Suresh Bhardwaj are already doing the rounds.
Central observers including Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar are going to Himachal Pradesh to look into the question of choosing a Chief Minister.
Other prominent BJP leaders who lost include Maheshwar Singh in Kullu, Randhir Sharma in Bilaspur and Kripal Parmar and Indu Goswami in Kangra.
The list of senior Congress ministers who lost includes Kaul Singh Thakur, G.S. Bali, Sudhir Sharma, Thakar Singh Bharmauri and Prakash Chowdhary. However, senior minister Col. Dhani Ram Shandil defeated his son-in-law Rajesh Kashyap of the BJP by a slender margin in Solan.
Former Congress Minister Anil Sharma, son of former Congress stalwart Sukhram, also won from Mandi, on a BJP ticket this time.
He had quit the Congress on the eve of elections, allegedly because his family had been slighted by out-going Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh.
Despite Congress’s poor performance, Mr. Singh won his seat Arki with a comfortable margin of 6,017 votes, defeating the BJP’s Ratan Singh Pal, a Chandigarh-based businessman with roots in Arki. Mr. Singh’s son Vikramaditya Singh also won Shimla (Rural) by a margin of 4,880 votes.
Mr. Singh said he was fine with sitting in the Opposition, adding that the trend of changing governments every five years was independent of the work done by the government. “It is certain even now that we would again come to power after five years and people would definitely reject the BJP,” he maintained. He rubbished the BJP’s claims that it is a defeat of the “mafia rule” patronised by him and the Congress and said it was the anti-incumbency trend against sitting governments that led to his party’s defeat.