SHIMLA: The Congress on Thursday wrested Himachal Pradesh from the BJP as it crossed the majority mark of 35 seats in the 68-member Assembly in the hill state which maintained its tradition of not voting any incumbent government to power since 1985.
In the latest results and trends available, the Congress won 39 seats and was leading in 1, while BJP registered a win on 18 seats and was leading in seven others. Three Independents also emerged victorious.
Aam Aadmi Party, which had contested on 67 seats, failed to open its account.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi thanked the people of Himachal Pradesh for the “decisive win” of his party and assured them that every promise made by the party will be fulfilled.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur said he respects the mandate of the people and submitted his resignation to the governor.
Governor Rajendra Vishwanath Arlekar has accepted his resignation, official sources said.
“We will give constructive support rising above partisan politics but where we feel interests of the state have not been protected, we will raise the issues before people,” Thakur said and expressed the hope that the new government will fulfil its promises.
The BJP gave the slogan of “Raj nahin, riwaaj badlega”, which translates to “the convention will change, not the government”, but failed to buck the trend. Himachal Pradesh has not voted any incumbent government to power since 1985.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi thanked voters of the hill state for their affection and support to the BJP and said his party will keep working to fulfil the aspirations of the state and raise people’s issues.
The Congress had promised to bring back the old pension scheme and provide jobs to the youth among other things in its campaign in the hill state
Jai Ram Thakur was leading over his nearest Congress rival from the former’s Seraj seat in Mandi district. However, many of his ministers including Suresh Bhardwaj, Ram Lal Markanda and Surveen Chaudhary lost the election.
Former Union minister Sukh Ram’s son Anil Sharma of the BJP retained his Mandi Sadar seat defeating his rival from the Congress.
BJP candidate D S Thakur defeated six-time Congress MLA Asha Kumari in Dalhousie assembly seat by a margin of 9,918 votes. Asha Kumari was among the chief ministerial probables.
Hoshiyar Singh from Dehra and K L Thakur from Nalagarh are among the three Independents who won.
Former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh’s son and sitting Congress MLA from Shimla (Rural) Vikramaditya Singh retained his seat by defeating his nearest rival Ravi Kumar Mehta of the BJP by 13,860 votes.
The counting of votes for the 68-member assembly began at 8 am.
For the Congress, a victory in Himachal Pradesh is much needed for a revival as it has been battered by a spate of electoral losses in the last few years.
The Congress has convened a meeting of all its newly-elected MLAs in Himachal Pradesh in Chandigarh after the declaration of results on Thursday, and the meet was likely to pass a resolution authorising the Congress president to elect the CLP leader.
AICC in charge of Himachal Pradesh Rajeev Shukla said the party was happy that it is getting an opportunity to form the government in the state and asserted that it will do everything to fulfil the 10 guarantees made to the people of the state and would provide better governance to people.
“The newly-elected Congress MLAs would meet in Chandigarh post-election results and decide on electing the new legislature party leader,” Shukla told PTI.
Shukla said Priyanka Gandhi took the reins of the campaign in her hands and lauded her contribution. He also thanked Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, former chiefs Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and general secretary organisation K C Venugopal for their cooperation in poll preparations.
He said Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra had also had an indirect impact on the elections and among the people.
While Shukla is AICC in charge of Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel was appointed senior observer for the polls.
About 76.44 per cent of voters had exercised their franchise on November 12. Altogether, 412 candidates, including 24 women and 99 independents, are in the fray.
The BJP and the Congress contested on all 68 constituencies, while the AAP fielded candidates on 67 seats, the Bahujan Samaj Party on 53 and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) on 11 seats.
In 2017, the BJP won 44 seats, the Congress 21 and the CPIM gained one. Two Independent candidates, too, had won.
The main opposition party had raised issues of price rise, unemployment, and the old pension scheme, among others.
The BJP’s campaign in Himachal saw a special focus on women and youth, with the party rolling out a standalone manifesto for women for the first time in the state’s history.