The Congress made a comeback in Himachal Pradesh on Thursday, by winning 40 seats in the high-stakes electoral contest for the 68-member Legislative Assembly, edging out the ruling Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), which had appeared confident of returning to power.
Himachal Pradesh Assembly election results | Updates
Himachal Pradesh has seen a bipolar electoral system for more than three decades, with the Congress and the BJP alternately forming the government. Yet again, the voters in the hill State have followed the tradition of throwing out the incumbent government after five years of governance.
The ruling BJP, which was aiming to once again form the government with its high-pitched “mission repeat” campaign, failed to go beyond the 25-seat mark in the State assembly. While Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur won by a record margin of over 37,000 votes — the highest-ever by any CM in the State — eight of his 10 Ministers lost the election.
The Congress party won 40 assembly constituencies while the BJP could register a win in only 25 seats. Three Independent candidates have also won, according to the results and trends declared by the Election Commission of India on Thursday. In the Himachal Pradesh legislature, 35 seats marks the majority needed by any party or alliance to stake a claim to form the government in the State.
Similar vote share
According to the Election Commission’s data, the Congress secured around 44% of the popular vote while the BJP secured a 43% vote share. The AAP was able to get only 1.1% of the vote share, while 0.59% of voters chose the None of the Above (NOTA) option.
Mr. Thakur has submitted his resignation to Governor Rajendra Vishwanath Arlekar who has accepted it, according to an official statement. It added that the Governor, as advised by the Council of Ministers, has dissolved the Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly with immediate effect.
The Ministers who lost their seats include Suresh Bhardwaj, Ramlal Markanda, Virendra Kanwar, Govind Singh Thakur, Rakesh Pathania, Rajiv Saizal, Sarveen Chowdhary and Rajendra Garg.
“The BJP felt they were strong in Himachal, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah came for campaigning many times, but today the Congress is all set to form the government,” said senior Congress leader Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, a strong contender for the Chief Minister’s post
“The voters of Himachal Pradesh were not swayed by the carpet bombing of both money and muscle power by the BJP,” said Congress leader Anand Sharma. “The results are a clear rejection of the Agniveer scheme of the government from the very recruitment belt of the Indian Army. It is also a vindication of the Congress’ promise to bring back the Old Pension Scheme.”
Facing strong anti-incumbency sentiments in the State, the BJP depended on intense campaigning from the party’s central leadership including political heavyweights like Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, apart from the State leaders. The Congress’ focus on local governance issues — such as corruption, inflation, unemployment, demand for the restoration of the old pension scheme (OPS) by government employees, and the problems of horticulturists and farmers — seems to have cost the BJP dearly. Apart from this, the BJP’s rebels also seem to have dented the party’s “mission repeat” ambition, hurting the party’s winning prospects in over a dozen seats.
Also read | Congress in a fix in hill State as many leaders aspire for CM’s post
On the other hand, the Congress, which had been struggling with factionalism since the demise of six-time Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh left a leadership vacuum in the State party, kept harping on the undercurrent of anti-incumbency to clinch the win. Its victory is largely being seen in the backdrop of people’s longing for an alternative, rather than any ground work done by the Congress party for the long haul.
After an emphatic win in neighbouring Punjab, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) created an initial euphoria in the political landscape of Himachal Pradesh, fielding candidates in 67 of the 68 Assembly constituencies, but ultimately failed to achieve its ambitions. The party could not win even a single seat in the poll.