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bjp: Shock defeat in Himachal bypolls a wake-up call for BJP as Cong wins big | India News


NEW DELHI: One of the biggest setbacks for the BJP in October 30 bypolls has come from the hill state of Himachal Pradesh, where the ruling party lost all the three assembly seats and the lone Lok Sabha seat where elections were held.
The results will cast a question mark on the ability of chief minister Jai Ram Thakur to steer the party to victory in the assembly elections that are due late next year.
The fact that in one of the assembly seats, the BJP candidate even lost her deposit would surely worry the party. More so, because Himachal Pradesh is also the electoral home ground of party’s national president J P Nadda.
The Virbhadra factor:
In the Mandi parliamentary seat, Congress candidate Pratibha Singh, wife of former chief minister late Virbhadra Singh, trumped BJP candidate Brigadier Khushal Thakur by a margin of 8,766 votes.
Virbhadra Singh was the tallest Congress leader from Himachal and it can be argued that the sympathy factor would have swayed a lot of voters in the constituency in favour of Pratibha Singh.
However, what would hurt the BJP chief minister a lot is that Mandi is also his home district. His electoral constituency, Chachiot or Seraj as it was known earlier, falls in the Mandi district.
Poor show in assembly seats:
Not just the parliamentary seat, the ruling BJP also lost all the three assembly seats to the Congress.
In the Arki assembly seat, Congress candidate Sanjay Awasthi defeated BJP candidate Rattan Singh Pal by over 3,000 votes while in the Fatehpur assembly seat, Congress’s Bhawani Singh Pathania defeated BJP’s Baldev Thakur by a margin of 5,634 votes. Significantly, an independent candidate got 12,000 votes in Fatehpur.
However, the most worrying message for the BJP came from the Jubbal-Kotkhai constituency where its candidate got just 2644 votes and forfeited her deposit. Congress candidate Rohit Thakur defeated independent candidate Chetan Bragta by 6,293 votes. The BJP’s vote share on this seat was a paltry 4.67 per cent indicating that many of its own cadre may not have voted for the party nominee.
Big turnaround for Congress:
The bypolls in the state mark a big turnaround in the fortunes of the opposition Congress that has been at the receiving end in electoral contests in the hill state after the BJP stormed to power with a thumping majority in 2017.
In 2019, the BJP had won a bypoll in Dharamshala constituency defeating an independent candidate by over 6,000 votes. The Congress candidate at that time had lost his deposit.
However, the 2021 bypolls have signalled a change in party’s fortunes
According to the commission data, the total Congress voteshare in the three seats is almost 20% more than the BJP. While the Congress candidates have garnered 48.9% of the votes, the BJP could manage only 28.1% voteshare in the three assembly seats.
Question of leadership:
The bypoll results are a wakeup call for the BJP. The party is now staring at the difficult question as to whether it can go into polls next year under chief minister Thakur’s leadership.
While the party would introspect and analyse, a Congress clean sweep is not easy to explain for the present state leadership.
Not only is Nadda the BJP president at the national level, Union Cabinet minister for Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur, who is a key functionary at the Centre, also hails from the hill state.
Anurag Thakur also has the advantage of age on his side. The BJP had earlier enacted leadership changes in neighbouring hill state of Uttarakhand. With the dismal show in Himachal, the party will have do some hard thinking on Himachal Pradesh as well.
Barometer of public mood:
Political expert Rajesh Jha said that “bypolls are considered a barometer of public mood. The results show that the people have chosen the alternative to the ruling dispensation. However, the economic aftermath of the Covid-19 outbreak and the price hike may also be factors that could have contributed to such a result”.
Political scientist Nilanjan Sircar said that while bypolls definitel are an indicator of public mood, they are still different from a full fledged elections where the entire party machineries swing into action.

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