In Himachal, commander defeated while army wins


3 Though voters in the hilly state of Himachal Pradesh gave a decisive mandate to the BJP, surprisingly the party’s chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal and state BJP chief Satpal Satti faced shocking defeats. There were rumours in the political corridors that Dhumal’s seat was changed to Sujanpur with a ‘plan’ and a group in the party wanted his ouster. In the current scenario, the chances of Union Minister Jagat Prakash Nadda becoming the Chief Minister are bright.

According to sources, in such a situation the newly elected MLA from the Bilaspur seat, Subhash Thakurmay, may be asked to vacate his seat for Nadda, who is considered to be close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah. However, the names of former minister Jai Ram Thakur and RSS man Ajay Jamwal are also doing the rounds.

The CPM also won a seat after 24 years in the state as its candidate Rakesh Singha won from Theog constituency. Interestingly, Singha had won from Shimla in 1993 assembly elections.

The people of the hilly state continued with the trend of change in government that began 24 years ago and elected the BJP again in an election which was fought on a high pitch of political abuses against each other. The BJP bagged 42 seats in the 68-member House and got a thumping majority. Congress could win only 22 seats while the CPM won one seat. However, the biggest setback came for it when its chief ministerial candidate and state BJP chief faced humiliating defeats on their respective seats.

BJP high-command declared Prem Kumar Dhumal as its chief ministerial candidate quite late, when it found that the party’s campaign was not picking up and it may face trouble in the state. It is interesting that the party gained in the state while Dhumal himself faced defeat in his constituency. In this election, many Congress stalwarts also faced humiliating defeat including a few of its ministers. This is for the fourth time when BJP has captured power in Himachal Pradesh. The three lakh plus government employees always play a big role in the assembly elections. There is at least one public sector employee in every family in the state as the presence of the private sector is limited in creating jobs for the youth. This is a general perception among employees in the state who feel that change in the power is good for them and this will help them in fetching more benefits from the new government.

Though Congress faced humiliating defeat in these elections both the Chief Ministerial candidate Virbhadra Singh and state Congress chief Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu won their seats. Congress in Himachal will have to look for a new face in the state now as the outgoing chief minister Virbhadra Singh is 84-years-old and this was his last election. The party depended on him for over three decades which caused a serious leadership vacuum in the party and no other leader could emerge. A huge group of leaders in the party comprised of his supporters and there were only a few names who were considered to be his opponents.

Suresh Bhardwaj BJP shimla

Now, AICC secretary Asha Kumari is considered to be the front runner for the post of Congress Legislative Party leader in the state if Virbhadra Singh is not given this responsibility. After change of guard in the Congress and Rahul Gandhi becoming the party President, things are all set for an overhaul in the hilly state also. State Congress chief Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu having won the election may continue as PCC Chief, though young turks like Mukesh Agnihotri are also in the race. There is every possibility now that the Virbhadra Singh group will weaken in the state Congress.

The poll results are a clear indication that both in the Congress and the BJP, its time for a new generation to take over the baton. J P Nadda, who is considered to be the front runner in the party, is 54-years-old and is known as a young turk in the state BJP. There were rumours that despite the defeat the party may name Dhumal as chief minister. If this happens Narendra Thakur, who won from the Hamirpur seat, may be asked to vacate Hamirpur seat for Dhumal. In the previous elections, Dhumal had fought and won each time from this seat. However, the name of former state BJP chief Jai Ram Thakur is also doing the rounds. He belongs to Mandi district where BJP has performed well. Sources said that his name cannot be ruled out for the chief ministership.

In the Congress, Sudhir Sharma, who was considered a future chief minister from the Congress, faced defeat. However, another potential future chief minister in the Congress Mukesh Agnihotri managed to win from his Haroli seat with a comfortable majority. Despite defeat it can not be said that Dhumal’s political career has ended. Before the elections, there were rumours that Dhumal may be made Governor so that Nadda could lead the party. However, when the party’s campaign didn’t pick well before the elections, the BJP high-command decided to announce Dhumal’s name for chief minister.