Anti-incumbency and a large number of rebels — mainly the result of wrong choices for tickets — cost the BJP the election in Himachal Pradesh on Thursday. The hill state stuck to its tradition of alternating choices every five years, rejecting Prem Kumar Dhumal’s claim about his government’s “performance” and his promise of induction chulhas.
The BJP lost heavily in Kangra, the state’s largest district which plays a major role in who wins Shimla. It won only three out of 15 seats, six fewer than in 2007. Two BJP rebels — Pawan Kumar Kajal (Kangra) and Rakesh Pathania (Nurpur) — were elected, and at least four others damaged the party significantly. The schism between Dhumal and former chief minister Shanta Kumar ensured a poor harvest of votes in the district.
In Dhumal’s home district of Hamirpur, the BJP lost Badsar and Sujanpur, the latter going to party rebel Rajender Rana who won by an impressive margin of over 14,000 votes. Dhumal himself won the adjoining Hamirpur seat.
Maheshwar Singh’s Himachal Lokhit Party dented the BJP in several seats, much like what Vijai Singh Mankotia’s BSP had done to the Congress in 2007. On Thursday, Singh was the only winner from his party, while Mankotia, who returned to the Congress before the polls, lost in Shahpur.
In all, six Independents won, most of whom were BJP rebels. In several constituencies won by the Congress, BJP rebels finished ahead of the party’s official candidate. In Jawali, rebel candidate Sanjay Kumar Guleria hogged more than half the number of votes the BJP candidate got, allowing the Congress nominee to win by 4,000-odd votes.
Virbhadra Singh, marginalised in the Congress and facing graft allegations, bounced back impressively. Despite some of his loyalists like former ministers Ram Lal Thakur, Rangila Ram Rao and Gangu Ram Musafir being defeated, he remained confident of coming to power.