The BJP on Monday wrested power from the Congress in Himachal Pradesh with a good majority, but its chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal lost to Congress candidate Rajinder Rana in Sujanpur.
The BJP clinched power with 44 seats out of the total 68, while Congress was reduced to 21, Communist Party of India (Marxist) one and independents two. The results, however, were yet to be declared officially for all constituencies.
The results of 2017 Assembly polls held on 9 November are in line with the 32-year trend in which the people of Himachal have voted for change, with governance issues weighing heavy on their minds every time.
In 2012, the Congress had wrested power from the BJP by getting 36 seats. The BJP was then reduced to 26 and others got six. A number of heavyweights lost ~ including state’s BJP chief Satpal Singh Satti, six cabinet ministers of Congress, including Kaul Singh Thakur and Sudhir Sharma, and former BJP ministers Ravinder Singh Ravi and Gulab Singh.
Sixty out of 68 sitting MLAs were in the fray this time, and only 32 could make it to the Assembly again. On many seats, the victory margin is less than 1,500. The major upset for ruling Congress has come from the biggest Kangra district, where the Congress is down to three seats ~ the tally that BJP had in 2012 polls.
The BJP has won 11 seats in Kangra, while one seat has gone to an independent who defeated senior BJP leader Ravinder Singh Ravi.
The next big district, Mandi, has also titled the scales against Congress, which has been completely wiped out in the district. From five seats, the Congress has been reduced to zero, the BJP has risen from five to nine and one seat was won by an independent, who defeated senior BJP leader Gulab Singh Thakur.
Hamirpur district, which was said to be the stronghold of former BJP chief minister Dhumal has gone the Congress way, with three out of five seats going to that party.
“We did much development in the state. There must have been some shortcomings. I will keep serving the state as I did earlier,” said six-time outgoing Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, while conceding the Congress defeat.
He said the Congress fought this election with limited resources. Virbhadra Singh won from a new constituency Arki in Solan district with 6,041 votes, and his son Vikramaditya Singh defeated the BJP nominee in Shimla (rural) by over 5,000 votes. On his own anticipated defeat, Dumal said in Hamirpur, “We will introspect why it happened,” he told media persons in Hamirpur.
It is for the first time in Himachal Pradesh that a leader projected as a party’s CM face is facing the possibility of defeat. Dhumal contested from a new constituency, Sujanpur, this time.