After a neck-to-neck battle, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi underlined as a vote-share difference of “less than 1 per cent”, the Congress ousted the BJP in Himachal Pradesh with 40 seats in the 68-member Assembly. The BJP, which garnered a vote share of 43 per cent as opposed to the Congress’s 43.9 per cent, managed to get only 25 seats largely owing to over 21 rebels from its ranks cutting into the party’s votes in large districts including Kangra, Mandi and Kullu.
Although the Congress, too, was facing a leadership crisis after the demise of the charismatic former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, its various leaders — Pratibha Singh, Mukesh Agnihotri and Sukhvinder Singh ‘Sukhu’ — managed to conduct a joint campaign after a stern warning from Rahul Gandhi, who said a leader would be elected only if the party managed to win the election. The Congress has called for a meeting of the newly-elected MLAs.
“We thank the people of Himachal Pradesh for this decisive mandate. We will fulfil all our promises,” tweeted Rahul Gandhi. Among the important election promises is implementation of the old pension scheme which is significant with government employees forming a significant chunk of the opinion makers in the State.
Rebels vs BJP
The BJP was plagued by different factions, represented by the party chief JP Nadda and Chief Minister Jairam Thakur on one hand and Union Minister Anurag Singh Thakur on the other. It impacted ticket distribution which was followed by at least 21 candidates rebelling across the State.
In Kangra district, for instance, Vipin Nehria, the BJP’s State vice-president of ST Morcha, was a rebel from the Dharamsala seat against BJP’s official candidate. Nehria secured 7,332 votes in the constituency, whereas the difference between the winner, Congress candidate Sudhir Sharma, over the official BJP candidate Rakesh Kumar was just 3,126 votes. In Dehra, Hoshyar Singh, who in the last election won as an Independent and later joined the BJP, was in the fray as a rebel. Singh won the Dehra seat with 22,563 seats.
Similarly, in Kullu district, Ram Singh was a rebel from the Kullu constituency against BJP’s Narottam Singh. Narottam Singh lost this seat to Sunder Singh Thakur of the Congress by less than 5,000 votes, while Ram Singh polled 11,790 votes as an independent. In Hamripur district, Sanjeev Kumar fought as a BJP rebel in the Barsar constituency, which the Congress won.