What Himachal verdict, Congress’s 1st win after 18 losses, means for the party | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

What Himachal verdict, Congress’s 1st win after 18 losses, means for the party

Dec 08, 2022 09:31 PM IST

The Himachal victory comes after a string of political defeats that triggered the exodus of several leaders from the Congress, and prompted questions about the leadership’s ability and competence

NEW DELHI: After almost four years and 18 losses in state elections, the Congress has finally won one, in Himachal Pradesh, defeating the BJP in a close contest, providing some succour from the battering it received in Gujarat.

Congress supporters celebrate the party’s victory in Kullu.region of Himachal Pradesh (HT PHoto/Aqil Khan)
Congress supporters celebrate the party’s victory in Kullu.region of Himachal Pradesh (HT PHoto/Aqil Khan)

The victory in Himachal Pradesh, where the Congress won 40 of 68 seats, came after a string of political defeats against the BJP as well as regional parties, a performance that triggered the exodus of several leaders, and prompted questions about the leadership’s ability and competence. Before the Himachal victory, the Congress had been reduced to ruling over just two states.

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Congress leader Rahul Gandhi expressed “heartfelt thanks” to Himachal Pradesh and added “I assure again, every promise made to the public will be fulfilled at the earliest.” Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said, “We will humbly accept our defeat (in Gujarat), congratulate people for our victory, and will continue to fight against the BJP.” The Congress has sent state in-charge Rajiv Shukla and other senior leaders to the hilly state to assist and oversee the process of forming the government.

Also Read: How TV channels jumped the gun on Himachal elections

Senior Congress leaders maintained that even as Himachal is not one of the big states, the victory could still boost the party’s morale ahead of the next year’s assembly elections in nine states — Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Tripura, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Telangana and Nagaland — and the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

They also added that while they were not in power in Gujarat, the victory in Himachal Pradesh makes it one additional state for the Congress in the country’s political map along with Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

“We snatched victory from the BJP in a state. It also sends a message to our allies that the Congress is able to fight the BJP in certain parts of the country,” said a general secretary of the party who asked not to be named. Jairam Ramesh, the party’s general secretary for communications said: “The Himachal Pradesh result is a definite morale booster for the Congress. The PM (Prachar Mantri)’s high voltage campaign in the home state of the BJP President failed significantly.”

Also Read: Decoding why the Congress ended up with its worst performance in Gujarat

The Himachal result is also good news for the Congress’ new president Mallikarjun Kharge. Within two months of taking charge as the party chief, he tasted success in an assembly election even though the Congress flopped in Gujarat. Kharge didn’t forget to thank the members of the Gandhi family and said, “I don’t take the credit for this victory. It was possible due to all party workers, leaders and the people.”

In the last nine years, since the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP has come to power in the Centre, the Congress has lost 37 assembly elections apart from being reduced to double digits in two consecutive national elections.

Earlier this year, the Congress lost the Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand polls. On Thursday, it faced an embarrassing defeat in Gujarat . In 2021, the Congress lost Assam to BJP, Puducherry to NR Congress, West Bengal to Trinamool Congress and Kerala to the CPIM-led LDF.

In recent years, the Congress’ limited success has come through coalitions, in Karnataka (for some time), n Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, Bihar, and Maharashtra (for some time), and victories in Madhya Pradesh (its government fell after two years) Chattisgarh and Rajasthan.

The Congress party now faces the challenge of putting its house in order in Rajasthan (where chief minister Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot have been sparring), and get ready for 2023 elections in the state, Karnataka (where its coalition collapsed after 14 months), Chattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh (where its government fell in two years).

The party also faces an increasing threat from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) that has won Delhi and Punjab, secured state party status in Goa and bagged an impressive 12.9% vote on its Gujarat debut. With allies turning hostile, political space shrinking fast, and the Narendra Modi-led BJP formidable in any contest, the Congress President has a tough job in the run up to the next national election in 2024.

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