Congress returns to power in Himachal Pradesh with absolute majority
Shimla, December 8, 2022
The Congress returned to power in Himachal Pradesh today by winning an absolute majority with 40 of the 68 seats in the state legislative assembly in the elections held on November 12.
As votes were counted in the elections today, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ended up with just 25 seats while independent candidates bagged three seats.
Counting of votes began at 8 am today amidst tight security and all the results were out by this evening.
More than 75.60 per cent of the voters had exercised their franchise on November 12. There were 412 candidates in the fray, including 24 women.
The small hill state has not seen any incumbent party returning to power since 1985. Since then both archrivals -- the Congress and the BJP -- have ruled the state alternatively in eight terms.
Acknowledging the adverse mandate, outgoing Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, under whose leadership the BJP went to the polls, told the media here: "I respect the people's mandate and I want to thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other Central leadership during last five years. We will stand for the development of the state irrespective of politics. We will also analyse our shortcomings and improve during the next term."
Thakur, who was banking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's charisma, submitted his resignation to the Governor, who accepted it.
Many of the outgoing ministers including Suresh Bhardwaj, Ram Lal Markanda, Sarveen Chaudhary, Rakesh Pathania, Govind Thakur, Virender Kanwar, and Rajiv Saizal lost the election.
The three independent candidates who won included two BJP rebels and one Congress rebel.
Thakur, 57, retained his stronghold Seraj in Mandi from where he has won six consecutive elections -- in 1998, 2003, 2007, 2012, 2017 and 2022 -- by a margin of over 22,000 votes over Chet Ram of the Congress.
Prominent victorious Congress leaders included journalist-turned-politician and prospective Chief Minister Mukesh Agnihotri, 60, from Haroli - for the fourth time, former state party chief Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, 58, from Nadaun, the seat he is representing fourth time in Hamirpur district, former Urban Development Minister Sudhir Sharma from Dharamsala, Rajinder Singh Rana from Sujanpur, Col. Dhani Ram Shandil, 82, from Solan, and second-time lawmaker Vikramaditya Singh, son of six-time Chief Minister late Virbhadra Singh.
Six-time Congress MLA Asha Kumari lost her stronghold Dalhousie from her nearest rival and BJP candidate D. S. Thakur by a margin of 9,918 votes. Asha Kumari was among the Chief Ministerial probables.
In the 2017 assembly elections, the BJP had won 44 seats and the Congress 21, with one seat going to the CPI-M, and two to Independent candidates.
Responding to the poll outcome, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: "I thank the people of Himachal Pradesh for the affection and support for the BJP. We will keep working to fulfil the aspirations of the state and raise people's issues in the times to come."
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who didn't campaign in the state, thanked the voters for the Congress' win.
"Heartfelt thanks to the people of Himachal Pradesh for this decisive victory. Hearty congratulations to all Congress workers and leaders. Your hard work and dedication really deserves the best wishes for this victory. I assure you again, every promise made to the public will be fulfilled at the earliest," he said.
Considering the family legacy and contribution, Congress state unit chief Pratibha Singh had sought votes in the assembly polls on development carried out by her husband Virbhadra Singh during his six terms as the Chief Minister.
Pratibha Singh, who did not contest the Assembly polls, has been projected as a prospective Chief Minister, too.
Coming out openly after retaining his Shimla (Rural) seat for the second consecutive term, Vikramaditya Singh said: "We will form a government with a full majority... She (Pratibha Singh) is one of the contenders for the CM post."
Pratibha Singh, who won the Mandi seat in the 2021 Lok Sabha bye-election, missed no opportunity to remind the electorate that the victory in assembly election "will be a tribute to him (Virbhadra Singh)".
"Not only the Congress supporters but also from other parties voted for us as a tribute for Virbhadra Singh," she said.
Pratibha Singh told the media after the party's straight win that the family of Virbhadra Singh has played an important role in this election and considering the contribution of Virbhadra Singh for the state, then party President Sonia Gandhi had appointed her the state president.
Well ahead of the Assembly polls, the Congress had appointed the three-time MP as the state unit president.
Pratibha Singh had spearheaded the poll campaign on the legacy of Virbhadra Singh, never missing an opportunity to remind voters for development and work initiated by her late husband.
She banked on the party's promise to bring back the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) that will benefit 225,000 employees, a crucial vote bank.
Reposing faith in the party legislators, Pratibha Singh told the media: "People have given us the mandate. We can meet (our MLAs) anywhere, including Chandigarh or in the state. Those who have won will be with us and we will form the government."