People of Himachal Pradesh (HP) chose to go with the tradition of voting out the incumbent party as on Thursday the Congress returned to power in a tight contest with 40 seats in the 68-member assembly. For the majority, a party needs 35 seats.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could bag 25 seats in the hill state with Independents emerging victorious on three seats. Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur tendered his resignation to the Governor soon after the results were declared.
The vote share of Congress at 43.90 per cent was just 0.90 per cent more than that of the saffron party (43 per cent), while the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was decimated with 1.10 per cent vote share. In 2017, the BJP had won 44 seats while the Congress had won 21 seats.
In 2022, the Congress kept former party president Rahul Gandhi away from campaigning while roped in his sister and party General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi. In a strategic move, the grand old party tried to keep Prime Minister Narendra Modi factor in check by focussing more on local issues such as Old Pension Scheme (OPS), Rs 1,500 per month for all women of age group 18-60, inflation, and unemployment.
Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah held rallies across the state. The PM even described HP as his second home and called up a rebel candidate on phone to step down but all went in vain.
As many as eight BJP ministers out of 11 who were in the fray bite the dust including Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Sarveen Choudhary (Shahpur), Health and Family Welfare Minister Rajiv Saizal (Kasauli), Education Minister Govind Singh (Manali), Food and Civil Supplies Minister Rajinder Garg (Ghumarwin), Forest Minister Rakesh Pathania (Fatehpur), Urban Development Minister Suresh Bhardwaj (Kasumpti), Technical Education Minister Ram Lal Markanda (Lahaul and Spiti), and Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister Virender Kanwar (Kutlehar).
Jal Shakti Minister Mahender Singh vacated Dharampur seat for his son Rajat Thakur, who also lost. Only outgoing Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, Industries Minister Bikram Singh and Power Minister Sukh Ram Chaudhary could retain their seats. Thakur won from Seraj seat by a record margin of 38,183 votes.
Leader of Opposition and CM contender from the Congress Mukesh Agnihotri retained Haroli seat in Una district for 5th time consecutively. He won by a margin of 9,148 votes. Another CM contender in the party, Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, emerged victorious from Nadaun by a margin of 3,363 votes.
Virbhadra Singh’s son Vikramaditya Singh won Shimla (Rural), second time consecutively, by a margin of 13,860 votes. RS Bali, son of former Congress Minister GS Bali, defeated his nearest rival by 15,892 votes.
However, Congress heavyweight Kaul Singh Thakur lost, second time consecutively, from Darang by 618 votes. He had represented Darang eight times in the past. The margin of defeat of another veteran Asha Kumari, who is a six-time MLA, from Dalhousie was 9,918 votes.
Among the districts, Kangra which has maximum 15 seats emerged as a kingmaker again. The Congress won 10 seats while the BJP bagged four and one seat went to the independent candidate. In 2017, it was exactly opposite as the saffron party had bagged 11, Congress won three and one went to an Independent.
Jai Ram Thakur kept its hold intact in Mandi district as the saffron party won nine out of 10 seats this time. In 2017, the party had won all the 10 seats.
In the run up to the 2022 polls, the Centre had announced tribal status to the Hatti community. But despite this, in Sirmour district, the Congress won three seats and two went to the BJP.
The discontent among apple orchardists helped the Congress in winning seven out of eight seats in Shimla district. The BJP couldn’t win a single seat in Solan and Hamirpur districts.
Hamirpur is the home district of former BJP CM Prem Kumar Dhumal and his son Anurag Thakur, who is a Union Minister.
The election was also significant for BJP national president J P Nadda as he hails from the state. Both he and CM failed to placate the rebels. However, victory in three out of four seats in his home district Bilaspur could be a relief for him.