A rebellious Kangra, a hard-headed Shimla and tribal Lahul-Spiti swung the battle for the Congress in Himachal Pradesh. In the fourth position was the second-largest district Mandi, which also gave the party two extra seats.
Regions have always played a vital role in shaping the politics of this hill state. And for the apple-growing areas of Shimla district, what mattered more than the BJP’s statewide achievement were local issues – like a road.
The 85-km stretch connecting Theogh and Hatkoti, which caters to the main apple-growing regions, was a sore point. Haphazard work had deteriorated the condition of the road, which caused many deaths and a great loss to apple growers.
Added to the niggling local issues, was Congress leader Virbhadra Singh’s personal rapport with the public.
No wonder that six of the eight seats went to the Congress and one to an Independent candidate. The BJP could bag just one seat.
Rohru remained the traditional seat of Singh for four elections, creating history of sorts. In Jubbal-Kotkhai, horticulture minister Narender Bragta was defeated by Rohit Thakur by over 9,000 votes. In Rampur, Singh’s home turf, Congress’s Nanda Lal defeated BJP’s Prem Singh Draik by a margin of 9,000 votes.
Keeping with its tradition, the politically significant Kangra, which sends the largest number of legislators to the state assembly, voted against the incumbent government. In fact, in the entire Nurpur subdivision, the rebels played their role in the defeat of BJP. The Congress bagged 10 of the 15 assembly seats in the district, the BJP won only three. In 2007, the BJP had won 9 of the 16 seats.
The biggest loser in Kangra was BJP national vice-president Shanta Kumar, whose trusted lieutenants all lost -- including food and civil supplies minister Ramesh Dhawal from Jawalmukhi and industries minister Kishan Kapoor from Dharamsala. In Palampur, the BJP lost all four assembly segments.