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Saturday, Sep 21, 2019

Himachal election results: 5 reasons why the Congress lost to the BJP

Himachal Pradesh stayed true to its anti-incumbency trend, bringing BJP back to power as the government failed to address key issues. While CM Virbhadra Singh won, the Congress only scored 21 of 68 seats.

india Updated: Dec 18, 2017 23:32 IST
Navneet Sharma
Navneet Sharma
Hindustan Times, Shimla
BJP supporters burn firecrackers to celebrate the party's win in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh state assembly elections in New Delhi, on Monday.
BJP supporters burn firecrackers to celebrate the party's win in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh state assembly elections in New Delhi, on Monday. (AP Photo)

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) pulled off a stunning victory in Himachal Pradesh on Monday, trouncing the incumbent Congress government.

While the BJP was expected to return to power from the beginning, its seat tally is impressive. It gained close to two-thirds majority in the 68-strong state assembly. It also got a 10 percentage-point jump in its vote share, going from 38.47% in the 2012 assembly elections to 48.7%.

Here are five takeaways from the assembly election results:

Voters stick to tendency of flipping parties

Known for changing governments every five years, the electors in the hill state did it again. They sent the Congress packing, punishing non-performance. Though the BJP scored a stunning victory in the direct fight, it has been left with a bloody nose. BJP chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal, state unit president Satpal Singh Satti and former minister Gulab Singh Thakur (father-in-law of BJP MP Anurag Thakur), are among the party bigwigs who fell. As for the Congress, most of its ministers and chief parliamentary secretaries have lost.

BJP’s organised campaign the differentiator

Unlike the Congress, the BJP ran an organised campaign with its formidable election machinery at work. Leading from the front was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who addressed half-a-dozen well-attended rallies in the small state. Targeting the Congress on corruption, unemployment and rising crime, he set an aggressive tone for the campaign. Besides BJP national president Amit Shah, several Central ministers and chief ministers were also drafted. The Congress campaign paled in comparison with Rahul Gandhi addressing only three rallies on November 6, a day before campaigning came to an end.

Anti-incumbency, factionalism did Congress in

Though voters kept their cards close to their chest throughout the election campaign, the Congress was up against a strong undercurrent of anti-incumbency due to sloppy governance, unemployment and deteriorating law and order. The six-time chief minister tried to turn things around, running his campaign on development, but did not get much help from ministerial colleagues who remained confined to their own constituencies and lost. The party, riddled with in-fighting, was unable to put its house in order.

GST, demonetisation didn’t get much traction

The Congress made the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and demonetisation its central planks. While CM Virbhadra Singh focused on development initiatives he undertook, the emphasis of most Central leaders, including Rahul Gandhi, was on these two key economic decisions of the Modi government. Similarly, Congress spokespersons and other leaders heavily counted on the “resentment” against GST to work for the party, but failed to get the expected response.

Kangra, Mandi tilted the scales

The BJP’s comeback has been made possible by tremendous support it received in Kangra and Mandi having 25 assembly segments. The party notched big gains in the two districts which account for more than a third of the assembly seats in state assembly. Of the 15 assembly constituencies in Kangra, 10 have gone to the BJP. The party won nine of 10 seats in Mandi, wiping out the faction-ridden Congress.

First Published: Dec 18, 2017 19:19 IST