December 8 marked the completion of the vote-counting process for Himachal Pradesh after a one-month wait. On November 12, Himachal Pradesh went to the polls to choose its legislative body. Himachal Pradesh has had a distinctive history in relation to legislative elections. No political party has been re-elected to power after serving in that capacity for five years since 1990. Only the BJP and Congress have been actively involved, primarily in Himachal Pradesh. The Aam Aadmi Party of Arvind Kejriwal, however, was also competing this time.
The 2022 Himachal Pradesh Assembly election was held in a single phase for all 68 seats on November 12. A total of 412 candidates were in the fray whose fates were sealed in electronic voting machines by the State’s electorate of around 55 lakhs. At a total of 7,881 polling places, around 75-76 per cent of eligible voters cast votes in these elections.
In the most recent exit polls, majority of pollsters anticipated that the BJP, led by Jai Ram Thakur, would win. But the people of Himachal disproved the exit polls. After 5 years, the Government in Himachal changed once more, continuing the long-standing tradition of changing governments. The victory of the Congress (which has been wiped out in the whole country) in a State like Himachal is historic in itself. It is crucial to consider the political games played in Himachal during the past year in order to understand the rationale behind the Congress’ victory.
“People have given us the mandate, there is no need to fear. 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” — Pratibha Virbhadra Singh, Himachal Congress President
Let’s start by taking a look at the Aam Aadmi Party. Following the overwhelming victory in the Punjab elections, Kejriwal and his team conducted some so-called tumultuous tours to Himachal. Then, all of a sudden, the BJP entered the scene, and the state executive team of the Himachal Pradesh’s Aam Aadmi Party joined the BJP. Following this, Kejriwal and his team vanished from Himachal and focused on Gujarat. The election results show that in several places, AAP candidates got less votes than NOTA and AAP has lost its deposit in all seats.
Now it is the turn of the Congress party. Congress’s performance in these elections was utterly dry up until the BJP’s ticket allocation. Rahul Gandhi was in South India on the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’. The crowds at Priyanka Vadra’s rallies remained uninteresting, as well. The Himachal Congress leaders made every effort to remain in the polls while simultaneously attempting to separate the State Congress and the National Congress. Veteran Congress Leader Sukhwinder Sukhu had declared, “PM Modi se bair nahi, Jairam teri khair nahi” in that endeavour. Many Congressmen joined the BJP. Since that time, Himachal Congress leaders have operated like an army without a commander. Overall, the political atmosphere of the hilly State was in favour of the BJP. In this favorable atmosphere, BJP announced its list of candidates. There was a huge reaction and protest against many candidates declared in this list at many places. The Himachal Congress took advantage of this opportunity. They tied their belts and started campaigning by launching the issue of the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) with other issues.
“I respect people’s mandate & I want to thank PM & other central leadership during last 5 yrs. We’ll stand for the development of the state irrespective of politics. We’ll analyse our shortcoming and improve during the next term”
— Jairam Thakur, Outgoing CM
Election results are out and Congress is going to form the government in Himachal by winning 40 seats out of a total of 68 seats. By allocating wrong tickets, the BJP itself handed over power control of Himachal Pradesh to Congress. Yes, of course, the OPS issue has its additional cooperation here. More than 20 BJP rebel candidates entered the race as a result of poor ticket distribution, harming the party all over.
It is worth noting here that the Central Government has given AIIMS and Hydro Engineering College in Bilaspur district itself, which were inaugurated by PM Modi just before the elections. Rebels also harmed the BJP dearly in Hamirpur, the home district of cabinet Minister Anurag Thakur. The indifference towards the workers in the Una district and the indifference of the local BJP leaders in the Prachi murder case led to the defeat. On the other hand, erroneous ticket distribution and ticket reshuffling also resulted in losses in the Kangra district. In the Mandi district, the hard work of CM Jairam Thakur paid off as the BJP won nine out of ten seats. In district Sirmour, there were instances of communal disturbances, which incensed some Hindu organisations there. Perhaps they were not taken into confidence by the BJP leadership. The loss occurred in the Kullu Sadar seat as well because of the allocation of tickets. The candidate from Nalagarh in Solan, a BJP rebel, won by a huge margin. One candidate in Rohru received a ticket despite strong opposition from Hindu organisations like the Hindu Jagran Manch. Shimla’s seats were redistributed, resulting in the loss of two seats, one of which Minister Suresh Bhardwaj also had to lose.
The positive impact of the rallies of PM Modi and Amit Shah cannot be denied. But the wrong ticket allotment cost them all. Although there may not be much of a vote share difference between the BJP and Congress, the fact remains that the BJP has lost power. BJP lost the Himachal Pradesh election despite favourable conditions and a leaderless, weak opposition like the Congress. The need of the hour for the BJP is for in-depth reflection and proper communication with grassroots workers.