Riding an anti-incumbency wave, the Congress on Thursday won back Himachal Pradesh from the BJP, winning 36 out of 68 assembly seats.
Virbhadra Singh, 78, a five-time chief minister who took over the party’s reins just before the elections and ran a spirited campaign won from Shimla (rural) while outgoing chief minister PK Dhumal won from Hamirpur.
The Independents, mostly BJP and Congress rebels, won five seats while the Himachal Lokhit Party (HLP) floated by BJP dissidents won one.
While Dhumal and his party rival, former chief minister Shanta Kumar, did not elaborate on the reasons for the BJP’s poor show, party insiders said flawed distribution of tickets and infighting was responsible for the loss.
“We accept the verdict. All people in the BJP had fought elections together. The people did not vote for us. We accept it,” Shanta Kumar, a former Himachal Pradesh CM, said.
The BJP suffered major reverses in the Kangra district: It won only three out of 15 assembly seats. In 2007, it won nine out of 16 seats. To add insult to injury, two BJP rebels — Pawan Kajal (Kangra) and Mohan Dhiman (Indora) — won as Independents. The Congress has improved its tally in Kangra from five in 2007 to 10.
The performance of the Congress can be termed mediocre. It has done well in Kangra and improved its showing in Shimla, Mandi, Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti districts. But it failed to demolish the BJP citadels of Hamirpur and Bilaspur districts. It has fared badly in Sirmaur where it has won only one seat compared with the three it won in 2007.
Despite the win, Congress leader Virbhadra Singh has a tough task at hand since several of his loyalists have lost and these losses may hamper his prospects of becoming the chief minister for a sixth time. As many as 30 out of 64 members of outgoing house, who were in the fray, have been reelected, while 34 have been defeated.