Congress set to form government in Himachal Pradesh
NEW DELHI: The Congress’ electoral victory in Himachal Pradesh came as a face-saver as the party was decimated in Gujarat. The race for the chief ministership has begun in the hill state. The Himachal campaign was led by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, while her brother Rahul Gandhi remained preoccupied with his Bharat Jodo Yatra.
A factional war and sabotage from within reportedly resulted in the BJP’s defeat. Apart from Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Rajasthan MLA Sachin Pilot, who was an observer, campaigned extensively in the state. His main rival with the Congress, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot, was the senior observer in Gujarat.
The victory in the hill state has somewhat covered the party’s trouncing in Gujarat. Local leaders in Gujarat claim that this time there was no concerted effort by the AICC to run a full-steam campaign.
Congress in-charge for Himachal Pradesh, Rajeev Shukla, said it was due to the efforts and hard work of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra that the party was able to defeat the BJP. She was held rallies as well as door-to-door campaigns, and camped near Shimla. Shukla also thanked newly-elected Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and the former Congress chief Sonia Gandhi for the victory. Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi also thanked the people of Himachal Pradesh.
The three candidates leading the race for CM are Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, Mukesh Agnihotri and Pratibha Singh. The last named is a member of Parliament and did not contest the Assembly polls. She is the wife of former Himachal CM Virbhadra Singh.
Sukhu and Agnihotri have won their Assembly seats. Interestingly, two other contenders for the top post, Asha Kumari and Kaul Singh Thakur, lost the election.
The Congress has convened a meeting of its MLAs in Chandigarh on Friday evening. It is expected to pass a resolution authorising the Congress president to select the CLP leader. Rajeev Shukla said: “The newly-elected Congress MLAs would meet in Chandigarh post-election results and decide on electing the new legislature party leader.”
The party has already sent two senior observers to Chandigarh – former Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel. Dispelling rumours that the Congress was shifting its MLAs to another state, Hooda said the Congress was not shifting its MLAs anywhere and the party has been given a clear majority to form the government in the state.
Rejecting Prime Minister Modi’s consistent appeal to change the “rivaaj” (tradition), Himachal Pradesh decided to continue with the trend and dethroned the BJP. Rebel candidates, anger over ticket distribution among the party cadre and the Congress’ promise of resumption of the old pension scheme hit the BJP’s “Mission Repeat” badly.
Factionalism also marred the party’s chances. The BJP had given the slogan of “Raj nahin, riwaaj badlega,” and the PM and party leadership had been stressing on why the state should continue with the “double-engine ki sarkar” for the hill state’s development.
Of the four parliamentary seats in the state, the BJP party performed well in Mandi, home district of both outgoing CM Jairam Thakur and the party president J.P. Nadda. The outgoing CM thanked the people for their support and accepted the verdict of the people.
The denial of a ticket to former chief minister and party stalwart Prem Kumar Dhumal is learnt to have upset the party cadre in Hamirpur, which has nearly 13 Assembly seats. The BJP scored badly in the region. There were also reports of rivalry between the “Hamirpur camp” and the “Mandi camp”.