Himachal poll results: CM Jairam Thakur concedes defeat, Cong rides on anti-incumbency wave

Voters wait in a queue to cast their votes for the Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections, at a polling station in Shimla district, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. Photo: PTI

New Delhi: Himachal Pradesh on Thursday proved to be the Congress' solace from the drubbing it suffered in Gujarat.

Riding on the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) anti-incumbency wave, the Congress won 40 of 68 seats, gaining an absolute majority in the state.

The BJP, meanwhile, managed to win 25 seats, and Others three. Though CM Jairam Thakur won in the Seraj constituency for the sixth time, he conceded the party's defeat and handed over his resignation to the Governor.

The Congress has shifted its MLAs out of the State, fearing poaching. 

Meeting of MLAs convened in Shimla

The Congress has convened a meeting of all its newly-elected MLAs in Himachal Pradesh in Shimla on Friday and the meet is likely to pass a resolution authorising the Congress president to elect the CLP leader.

Earlier, the party had called all its MLAs to Chandigarh but changed its plans later after the party got a clear majority in the assembly elections on Thursday.

AICC in-charge of Himachal Pradesh Rajeev Shukla said the Congress was happy that it is getting an opportunity to form the government in the state and asserted that the party 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 Shimla on Friday post-election results and decide on electing the new legislature party leader," Shukla told PTI.

He had earlier said that the party had called all its MLAs to Chandigarh but later changed the decision.

Pratibha, Sukhu, Agnihotri lead race for CM

Congress state party president Pratibha Singh is considered a key frontrunner for the chief minister's post, closely followed by former party chief Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu and outgoing CLP leader Mukesh Agnihotri.

Deciding on the chief ministerial face who can bind the party going forward is the immediate challenge for the Congress.

Though Pratibha Singh did not contest the assembly election and is not an MLA, she had campaigned extensively across the state. Singh is presently the Mandi MP after she won in the bye-election from outgoing chief minister Jairam Thakur's home district.

She also carries the legacy of former chief minister Virbhadra Singh, who steered the Congress in the state for over four decades.

Singh, party sources claimed, has the support of a majority of MLAs who have owed their allegiance to Virbhadra Singh who remained the Congress' undisputed leader in the hill state for long.

Pratibha Singh's son Vikramaditya has been elected as an MLA from Shimla rural and is also among the hopefuls, even though many consider him too young for the top post.

The other CM aspirants are Sukhu, an MLA from Nadaun, and Agnihotri, who was elected from Haroli. Both are hopeful that the party high command would recognise their work as former PCC chief and as Congress Legislature Party leader.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which had fielded candidates in 67 seats, failed to open its account.

Ahead of the election results on Thursday, both BJP and Congress had claimed that they will get more than 40 seats of the total 68.

The BJP slogan this time was "Raj nahin, riwaaj badlega", meaning the convention will change this time, not the government.

Of 55 lakh voters in the state, over 75 per cent exercised their franchise in the November 12 election to elect its 68-member assembly and government. A total of 412 candidates are in the fray in this election.

In the 2017 assembly elections, the BJP won 44 seats and the Congress 21, with one seat going to CPI-M, and two to independent candidates.

30 Cong leaders expelled

The Himachal Pradesh Congress on Wednesday expelled 30 office-bearers of its Chopal block committee for anti-party activities.

Acting on a resolution passed by the block committee, Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee (HPCC) president Pratibha Singh expelled the functionaries from the primary membership of the party with immediate effect.

The expelled members included vice president Dhiren Singh Chauhan and Santosh Dogra.

Meanwhile, the Congress was confident of its victory, saying the voters would decide on the fundamental issues of price rise, joblessness, the old pension scheme, and other challenges of life and livelihood the state's residents have been facing.

The BJP's campaign in Himachal saw exclusive focus on women and youth, with the party rolling out a standalone manifesto for women for the first time in the state's history.

High women turnout

A higher women turnout has of late favoured the BJP, as seen in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, with the party hoping that similar trends will hold in Himachal Pradesh.

Women voter turnout in Himachal has surpassed men's since 1998.

In addition, historic voter registration in the hill state in the 18-19 year segment gave the BJP a reason to believe it had an edge.

The stakes were highest for the Congress which has been on a losing spree for over two years now, not registering a single state election victory on its own.

The party, till now, only held power in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, both of which will go to polls in 2023.

(With PTI inputs)

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