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Himachal: 32 seats won, lead on 7, Cong heading for victory

SHIMLA: The Congress on Thursday appeared headed for a victory in Himachal Pradesh as it surged ahead of the ruling BJP, winning or leading in 39 of 68 assembly seats.

In the latest results and trends available, the Congress won 32 seats and was leading in 7, while the ruling BJP had registered a win on 18 seats and was leading in 8 others.

Three Independents also emerged victorious. The Aam Aadmi Party failed to open its account.

Himachal Pradesh has not voted any incumbent government to power since 1985.

Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur said he respects the mandate of the people.

“I respect the mandate. In a short while, I am going to hand over my resignation to the governor,” Thakur told reporters here.

In the 68-member Assembly, Congress needs 35 for a majority. Chief Minister 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.

Congress leader Mukesh Agnihotri, who is the Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, was leading from Haroli, while former state Congress chief Kuldeep Rathore (Theog), former minister Sudhir Sharma (Dharamshala) and Dhani Ram Shandil (Solan) are ahead of their rivals.

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.

Senior Congress leader and sitting MLA Asha Kumari was trailing from Dalhousie while Congress’ Kaul Singh was trailing from Darang.

The counting of votes for the 68-member assembly began at 8 am.

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.

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.

As trends indicated a comfortable win for the grand old party, 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, the old pension scheme, among other issues.

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.


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