Himachal election results: For political families, the verdict is a question of pride
The Himachal election result could follow the anti-incumbency trend in the state and bring the BJP to power, a resuscitation for the party’s CM candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal. However, Congress; Virbhadra Singh is confident of a successive term.india Updated: Dec 18, 2017 16:06 IST
Exit polls predict a clear win for the BJP, but the ruling Congress is confident of bucking anti-incumbency and retaining Himachal Pradesh when results of the hill state’s November 9 assembly elections are declared on Monday.
A day ahead of counting of ballots cast in the state’s 68 assembly segments, the BJP is certain of winning more than 50 seats.
“We have set a target of 50-plus seats. The exit polls are not a surprise for us,” an optimistic BJP chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal said.
“People have voted for change and we are going to form the government with a record win.”
Chief minister Virbhadra Singh dismissed the exit polls, saying these should be banned as they aren’t scientific and often manipulated.
“I am waiting for the results. BJP is targeting above 50 or 60 seats. This is just a dream. Let them dream. Nobody is stopping them,” said the 83-year-old Singh, who is the state’s longest-serving and fourth chief minister, as he hoped to repeat the Congress’s 2012 victory and retain power.
The Congress had won 36 seats, while the BJP got 26, and Independents bagged six that year.
Chief electoral officer Pushpendra Rajput said counting would start at 48 centres at 8 am on Monday. More than 3.78 million votes were cast, accounting for a record 75.28% polling in the state.
According to political observers, it was a close contest between the Congress and BJP since there is “no clear wave in favour of any party”. The state has alternately elected the Congress and BJP governments since 1985.
For almost two decades, the Congress and BJP have fought almost every assembly and Lok Sabha polls under the leadership of Singh and Dhumal.
Singh is pushing to stay at the helm for the seventh time. Dhumal, at 73, is making a strong bid to ensure his party’s win with a record margin to silence detractors within the party.
“This time, Singh is fighting on two fronts … to establish son Vikramaditya Singh, who is contesting his maiden assembly election. Second, to ensure the Congress repeat performance as he forced the party to announce him as the chief ministerial candidate despite all odds,” a political observer told IANS.
For Dhumal, it’s a battle for survival after the defeat in the 2012 assembly polls. Since then, he has been almost marginalised within the party. Both Singh and Dhumal are seeking re-election from new seats.
The outcome will decide the political future of Vikramaditya, who heads the state’s Congress youth wing. “I’m confident … People will repose faith in policies and programmes of chief minister Virbhadra Singh,” he said.
Of 67 sitting MLAs, 60 legislators, nine cabinet ministers, HPCC president Sukhvinder Singh Sukkhu, state BJP chief Satpal Singh Satti, assembly deputy speaker Jagat Singh Negi, and eight chief parliamentary secretaries contested the polls along with a dozen former ministers.
Health minister Kaul Singh Thakur’s prestige is at stake in Mandi, where he is challenged by onetime loyalist and local Congress leader Puran Chand.
Mandi was a pocket borough of former telecom minister Sukhram, who along with his son has switched sides to the BJP this time. The father-son duo had won 10 of 12 elections since 1962.
The other notable constituency to watch out for is Palampur, where 37-year-old Ashish Butail is caught in a triangular fight against BJP’s Indu Goswami, who is known to have Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s blessings, and Parveen Sharma, who rebelled against the BJP after being denied a ticket.
Son of assembly speaker Brij Bihari Lal Butail, he belongs to an influential family that has large tea gardens in the small hill town.
Himachal Pradesh has a tradition of changing the government every election and going by the trend, this time it is the turn of the BJP. The party ousted the Congress in 1990 and the Congress avenged defeat in 1993. The BJP formed the government with the help of the Himachal Vikas Congress in 1998 and the Congress was back in power in 2003. The BJP made a comeback in 2007.
(with inputs from agencies)