Himachal Pradesh election results: How BJP CM face Dhumal lost to his protege

BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal lost Sujanpur assembly seat to Rajinder Singh Rana of the Congress.

india Updated: Dec 19, 2017 00:01 IST
Naresh K Thakur
Naresh K Thakur
Hindustan Times, Dharamshala
Himachal Pradesh election results,Himachal election result,Himachal elections
BJP CM Candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal addresses an election rally in Hamirpur, Himachal Pradesh.(HT File Photo)

For two decades, Prem Kumar Dhumal, 73, the two-time former chief minister, remained the most saleable face of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh.On Monday, as the party registered a win, Dhumal’s saleability was dented in an ironical twist of fate.

He lost to his one-time protégé, Rajinder Singh Rana of the Congress, from Sujanpur assembly segment of Hamirpur district.

But why did he lose? Poll analysts feel there was not just a singular reason, though his own party’s sabotage is being talked about quite openly now.

First,his shifting him from his base Hamirpur assembly segment to Sujanpur was seen as a bad move. And Dhumal is not to blame for that and remained reluctant, say observers. The party wanted him to shift base, despite the fact that Rana had won the seat twice as independent and was not backed by the Congress. Another theory is that Dhumal was fielded since the party thought he was the best bet in the tough constituency.

Though Dhumal enjoys a rapport among people of Hamirpur, the situation was somehow different in Sujanpur, said a party leader on the condition of anonymity, adding that “at first, the party is to be blamed for this loss”.Also, Rana has, over the years, built a strong support base in Sujanpur. He remains in touch with his electorate while Dhumal being shifted from Hamirpur lacked that local connect.Rana particularly had sway in the villages, where he has performed as a social worker.

And the third factor — a derivative of the above-stated connect — is that Rana was successful in centring the campaign around his won work.“He was also able to spread a message among people that Dhumal always ignored Sujanpur when he was CM,” said Arvind Sharma, a political analyst.Dhumal in his last term as chief minister, Sharma said, had refused to open a sub-division office at Sujanpur, which Rana later brought in the Congress regime.

Dhumal — who was unexpectedly announced as the CM candidate just ahead of polls — conceded that he and the party failed to “take people of Sujanpur into confidence”.“There must be some shortcomings on our part,” said Dhumal, after the declaration of results.He added, cautiously, “This not the time to blame anyone, but to introspect.”

His stature rose first when he was the BJP’s surprise pick for CM when it formed the government with support from Sukh Ram’s Himachal Vikas Congress in 1998. He was re-elected in 2003 and 2007, when he served his second term as chief minister. In 2012, Dhumal shifted to Hamirpur assembly segment as his constituency, Bamsan, was disintegrated in the delimitation exercise.

His rise in the party has been gradual, and now he is nearing the age of 75 that’s considered a retirement age in the Modi-Shah brand of the BJP.

Dhumal, who lost by a moderate margin, had first become the vice-president of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) in 1982. In 1984, he was selected as the candidate for the Hamirpur parliamentary constituency, which now his son Anurag Thakur represents. He was finally elected as MP from there in 1989 and 1991. He has also served as a member of several important panels of the Parliament.

In his two stints as CM, the state saw infrastructure developments, particularly of roads. He also oversaw the development of new railway lines. This gave rise to Dhumal being called as the ‘sadak walla mukhyamantri’.

Dhumal has faced few controversies in his political career. He has often been at loggerheads with his Congress counterpart and current CM Virbhadra Singh over his governance style.

This time, before November when he was made the CM face, Union minister JP Nadda had emerged as a strong contender, but it was Dhumal at the end, possibly due to his experience as CM earlier and caste politics. The socially-dominant Brahmins make up about 30% in Himachal.

(with ANI inputs)

First Published: Dec 18, 2017 22:10 IST