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NOTA upset poll cart in 3 seats in Himachal polls

More people opted for NOTA than AAP in 25 assembly segments.

Bhawani Negi | Shimla |

In the 2022 Himachal Pradesh polls, where eight seats were decided by less than 1,000 votes, NOTA was decisive in influencing outcome in three seats. In 25 seats, NOTA was ahead of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidates.

The results were declared on December 8 with the Congress party wresting power from the BJP by winning 40 seats in a 68-member legislative assembly.

However, as compared to the assembly polls in 2017 when 0.97 per cent people opted for   NOTA, this time 0.59 per cent valid votes went into the kitty of NOTA.

In Bhoranj reserved constituency in Hamirpur district, Suresh Kumar of the Congress defeated BJP’s Anil Dhiman by 60 votes. It was the lowest victory-defeat margin in the 2022 polls. Here, NOTA polled 293 votes.

In Sri Naina Devi ji seat in Bilaspur district, Congress’ Ram Lal Thakur and BJP’s Randhir Sharma were against each other for the fifth consecutive time. Sharma won by 171 votes while NOTA polled 225 votes.

NOTA influenced the outcome in Shillai constituency of Sirmour too. Congress candidate Harshvardhan Chauhan and BJP’s Baldev Tomar were clashing for the fourth consecutive time. In a seesaw battle, Chauhan trumped Tomar by 382 votes. Here, 525 people pressed the NOTA button.

In 2017 polls, NOTA had impacted the outcome in five assembly segments – Kinnaur, Badsar, Solan, Kasauli and Dalhousie.

AAP, which has been trying to expand its footprint and was dreaming of replacing Congress at the national level, bagged just 1.10 per cent of votes in Himachal Pradesh polls.

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann, and Delhi Deputy CM Manish Sisodia made a number of trips to HP, but soon after the announcement of poll schedule they surprisingly vanished and focussed on Gujarat.

It was expected earlier that the AAP could play on BJP and Congress pitch and eat into anti-incumbency votes. However, in 25 assembly segments, NOTA bagged more votes than Kejriwal’s party. It included all five seats of Chamba, four segments of Kangra, three of Mandi, five of Shimla and two each of Hamirpur and Sirmaur.

Only in 14 seats, AAP managed to score over 1,000 votes while it had fielded 67 candidates. The highest number of votes it managed to get was in Paonta Sahib – 5,090 and its candidate came third.

Prof Ashutosh Kumar, Department of Political Science, Panjab University (PU), said: “Himachal has always been a two-party state. AAP was initially trying to make inroads in the hill state, but later they shifted their focus to Gujarat where they received 12.92 per cent vote share.”

He added that there is a space for anti-BJP politics in Himachal Pradesh and if the Congress loses its reputation, the AAP could fill that void.

“AAP tactfully withdrew from the hill state at the last minute and invested in Gujarat. All their candidates forfeited deposits in Himachal Pradesh. Now, it will be tougher to regain Himachalis’ confidence, which was there after their landslide victory in the neighbouring Punjab,” said Prof Ramesh K Chauhan, Department of Political Science, Himachal Pradesh University (HPU). Shimla.