BJP clinches major victory in anti-incumbent Himachal Pradesh, with one setback

By Tushar Singh

The results of the Himachal Pradesh elections saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP returning to power and the ouster of Congress, which had been at the helm of the state under Virbhadra Singh, since 2012. The BJP won 44 Assembly seats in the 68-member Assembly House, while the Congress party bagged just 21 seats. BJP was last elected to power in Himachal Pradesh in 2007.

A successful campaign

There had been intense campaigning before the state went to polls on November 9th. Prime Minister Modi had himself campaigned for the BJP’s Chief Ministerial candidate, Prem Kumar Dhumal, who was pitted against six-time Chief Minister and former Union minister, Virbhadra Singh. There was an anti-incumbency mood in Himachal Pradesh, as CBI had filed a charge-sheet against Virbhadra Singh in March earlier this year. This followed a preliminary inquiry which found that Virbhadra Singh, during his term as a Union minister from 2009 to 2012, had allegedly accumulated assets worth ?6.03 crore. All opinion polls had indeed predicted a BJP victory with a comfortable margin. The November 9 elections witnessed a record voter turnout of over 75 percent

A victory, with one setback

Himachal Pradesh has changed hands between Congress and BJP since 1985. Apart from corruption allegations against Virbhadra Singh, BJP also accused Congress of backing the liquor, drugs, transport mafia, forest and mining mafia in the state. Another aspect which resonated with the public was the decline of the law and order situation in the state, including the murder of a forest guard in Kotkhai and the brutal gang-rape of a 16-year old in Shimla. Like always, BJP had pointed towards the dynasty politics of the Congress. as the rich son of CM Virbhadra Singh, Vikramaditya Singh got a ticket from his father’s stronghold, Shimla rural, in contravention against the initial party policy of ‘One Family, One ticket’.

However, all did not go well for the BJP as BJP’s Chief Ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal surprisingly lost to Congress’ Rajinder Rana at Sujanpur. Mr Dhumal said that his defeat was unexpected and the reasons for his loss will be “analysed later.”

A gracious acceptance of defeat

Outgoing CM Virbhadra Singh said, “I own responsibility for my party’s defeat.” He said it was the people’s right to make anyone victorious and he refused to put the blame on Congress President, Rahul Gandhi. He said, “The elections were conducted under my leadership and I accept our defeat.”

Rahul Gandhi too graciously accepted the defeat as he tweeted, “The Congress party accepts the verdict of the people and congratulates the new governments in both states. I thank the people of Gujarat and Himachal with all my heart for the love they showed me

Closer to a ’Congress-Mukt Bharat’

A BJP victory in Himachal Pradesh makes it the 19th Indian state to get a government, which is either completely or partially run by BJP. Congress, after losing Himachal Pradesh, only controls four Indian states: Punjab, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Karnataka (elections are due next year in all states but Punjab). BJP adding another state to its kit means that we are one step closer to a ‘Congress-Mukt Bharat’. Congress, now without a stronghold in even five states, risks being reduced to a minuscule force in front of BJP, which currently looks unstoppable. The Himachal defeat may as well mean a shift in the political scenario of independent India where the Grand Old Party is on the verge of being wiped off from the map.

The road ahead

Currently, there is suspense over the Chief Ministerial face of BJP, as Prem Kumar Dhumal lost the election. Since governments have changed hands in Himachal Pradesh since 1985, the BJP will have to work its way through the next five years to ensure the tradition of anti-incumbency in the state is broken. Almost every election, the governments are kicked out on the same issues of corruption and red-tapism. Therefore, it will be interesting to see who the BJP shall deem fit to assume the command of the government.

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