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Congress headed for power in Himachal as hill state sticks to trend for change every 5 years

Himachal PCC President Pratibha Singh

Shimla: The Congress is headed for victory in the Himachal polls as the people in the hill state chose to stick with the trend set since 1985 of voting out the ruling party and bringing the opposition into power in every assembly election.

Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur registered a highly impressive victory from his assembly constituency –Seraj posting a margin of 37000 votes –the highest ever in the state. However, 9 of his cabinet ministers, including Suresh Bhardwaj and Rakesh Pathania whose seats were changed, lost their election to Congress candidates.

BJP senior Dr Rajeev Bindal, who remained state assembly speaker, a cabinet minister and party chief also lost from Nahan in Sirmour district.

Only key winners were state assembly speaker Vipin Singh Parmar, Deputy Speaker Dr Hans Raj and two sitting ministers—Sukh Ram Chaudhry and Bikram Singh.

Some Congress stalwarts like Kaul Singh Thakur, Asha Kumari and Ram Lal Thakur also lost their seats.

Two key winners and Chief Ministerial post aspirants in the Congress—Mukesh Agnihotri and Sukhwinder Singh won their seats Haroli and Nadaun in Una and Hamirpur districts respectively.

A major surprise in the overall poll results was a complete sweep by the BJP in Mandi, the Chief Minister’s home district, where the party has won nine out of 10 seats. Lone loser was Rajat Thakur, a new party face and son of cabinet minister Mohinder Singh. It was Singh who had favoured a ticket for his son to take retirement from electoral politics.

What has come as a real blow to the BJP was rebellion over the distribution of tickets as 11 sitting MLAs were denied tickets and two ministers were moved to new constituencies just a fortnight before the poll.

Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur admits that rebels contesting against the party in such a large number was itself a worry. Now three of them have got elected while several others made the party to lose in the polls.

“We have to analyse this factor as to why the situation has come to this level” he said.

The Congress which largely banked on the tradition of change, after every five years, had the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) as the biggest weapon to hit the BJP. There were more than 1.6 lakh government employees and an equal number of pensioners in the state. The government employees are known to have overturned governments. Thus, OPS worked against the BJP.

Other poll issues included inflation, unemployment and apple growers being hit by the policies of the government like raising of GST on the packing material.

Barring one assembly seat in Shimla, the Congress has swept all seven in the district due to the apple issue.

Says PCC President Pratibha Singh “We were sure that the party will get a comfortable majority in the assembly. We had promised to restore OPS, give jobs to one lakh youths and grant Rs 1500 per month to all women in the age group of 18 to 65 years. This worked to our favour”.

She has already staked her claim for the leadership to carry forward the legacy of Virbhadra Singh as the party largely fought the elections on his name and contributions he had made to the development of state as six-time CM.

Asked who could be Chief Minister, she said “ the high command will certainly take a call after holding consultations with the elected MLAs” .

Vikaramditya Singh, sitting MLA and Virbhadra Singh’s son, also won his election from Shimla (rural) by 13,000 votes.

Earlier to this Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel,who is also election incharge for the state had declared that newly elected MLAs will be escorted to a safe destination elsewhere to ensure that the BJP don’t try to play foul with mandate given to the congress by the people.

In the 2017 elections, the BJP had won 44 seats while the Congress number was 21 with two independents and one CPM MLA.

As per latest trends and results, the Congress is likely to border at 39 and BJP confined to 26-27. Three independents have also got elected.

Aam Aadmi Party  (AAP) which tried to make its presence in the state fielding 67 candidates could not win a single seat. This was also a factor that worked against the BJP as it was a straight contest between the BJP and Congress. The people opted for change.