The electorate in Himachal Pradesh stuck to their trend of voting the incumbent government out of power. The Congress, therefore, could wrench power from the BJP, winning 36 of the 68 seats, riding on the traditional anti-incumbency wave.
The grand-old party’s victory was also aided by the fight its veteran leader Virbhadra Singh put up not just to win the mandate, but also to save his reputation tarnished by the corruption charges levelled against him.
The infighting within the BJP camp, which led a number of former saffron party members to contest as independents, aided the Congress prospects.
The Himachal Lokhit Party floated by the BJP dissidents won one seat. The Congress too had a few rebels, but Virbhadra Singh was given a free hand for revenge and his win became his party’s face-saving victory.
It won by a wafer-thin majority of 36 as against the 41 seats the BJP had won in 2007. The five-time chief minister Virbhadra now seems to be getting ready to take the reins of the state once again.
However, he said, “It is for the Congress president (Sonia Gandhi) to decide who would lead the party. I have full faith in my party high command.”
A race for the Himachal top job has already started though. A section within the Congress wants 78-year-old Virbhadra to pass the baton to a younger leader. The outgoing Chief Minister P K Dhumal who won from Hamirpur constituency, conceded defeat. “We will have to find out where we went wrong. We will analyse the reasons,” Dhumal said.
The Congress fared better in Shimla, Kangra and Kullu districts and made a clean sweep in tribal areas.