Virbhadra Singh leads Congress to victory in Himachal Pradesh
Riding an anti-incumbency wave and staving off corruption charges against its veteran leader Virbhadra Singh, the Congress on Thursday wrested power from BJP in Himachal Pradesh with a wafer-thin majority of 36 in the 68-member Assembly.
Disproving predictions of a close contest, the state lived to its reputation of voting out the party in power, giving the ruling BJP, which suffered from severe infighting and rebel candidates, only 26 seats.
The Independents, mostly BJP and Congress rebels, won five seats while Himachal Lokhit Party (HLP) floated by BJP dissidents won one seat. In the last elections in 2007, the BJP had bagged 41 seats and Congress 23.
Virbhadra Singh, 78, a five-time chief minister who was given the reins of the party on the eve of elections and who ran a spirited campaign, won from Shimla (Rural). Singh, against whom BJP had levelled allegations of corruption during his tenure as Steel Minister in Delhi in the campaign, is again a strong contender for the Chief Minister's post, political observers say.
He also appears to have emerged unscathed from the CD case filed by the Dhumal government in which charges were framed against him leading to his resignation from the Union government. While Chief Minister P K Dhumal won from Hamirpur constituency, his four cabinet colleagues Narinder Bragata, Khimi Ram, Krishan Kumar and Romesh Dhawala lost the elections.
However, Cabinet ministers Gulab Singh, Mohinder Singh, Jai Ram Thakur, Ravinder Singh Ravi, Sarveen Chowdhary and Ishwar Dass Dhiman retained their seats. Leader of the opposition Vidya Stokes won from Theog while Vijay Singh Mankotia, a bete noir of V B Singh, who buried the hatchet and rejoined Congress on the eve of Assembly polls, was defeated from Shahpur.
The Congress wrested as many as 22 seats from BJP which could wrench out only seven from Congress. The president of Himachal Lokhit Party (HLP), Maheshwar Singh was lone winner of HLP which had fielded 36 candidates while CPI, CPI (M) BSP, SP and other splinter parties drew a blank.
The Congress fared well in Shimla, Kangra and Kullu districts, winning six out of eight seats in Shimla, ten out of fifteen seats in Kangra and two out of four seats in Kullu district and made a clean sweep in tribal areas winning all three tribal constituencies of Bharmaur, Kinnaur and Lahaul and Spiti.
The BJP lost Badsar and Sujanpur seats in Hamirpur, the home district of Dhumal and could win only two out of five seats in Una.