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January 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.         January 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:Jan' 2018


Stage set for generational change

Rakesh Lohumi

Maintaining the past trend the politically aware electorate of Himachal voted out the incumbent Congress and brought the BJP back to power in a keenly fought electoral battle which saw many senior leaders bite dust. The BJP bagged 44 seats, up from its tally of 28 seats in the outgoing Vidhan Sabha, while the Congress managed to win only 21 seats in the 68- member Vidhan Sabha. Unlike past, the absence of an organised third force like Himachal Vikas Party (HVC) or Himachal Lokhit Party) HLP in the electoral arena made the task of the BJP easier as there was no division of anti-incumbency vote.
While gaining a comfortable majority , the BJP also suffered a huge embarrassment with both Prem Kumar Dhumal, its Chief Ministerial candidate, and Satpal Satti, the State party Chief, losing the election. The party had initially decided not to project any face for the post Chief Minister as a part of strategy but the high command succumbed to pressure and midway during the poll campaign declared Dhumal as the leader.
The result has made it obvious that the decision did not go down well with the party cadres and the people at large as many senior leaders close to Dhumal also lost. In fact, it came as a damper for the party cadres who were upbeat over prospects of change in leadership in the party dominated by Dhumal and former chief m i n i s t e r Shanta Kumar for the past almost three decades.The defeat of Dhumal has paved the way for change of leadership and Union Health M i n i s t e r J.P.Nadda from Bilaspur district and former minister Jai Ram Thakur from Mandi district are the front runners for the top post.
The party had set a target of winning 50 plus seats and after successful rallies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi before declaration of election it embarked on Mission 60 to wipe Congress out from Himachal. However, it had to content with 44 seats.
Besides Dhumal and Satti, prominent BJP leaders humbled at the hustlings, included Gulab Singh, father -in-law of Anurag Thakur , Ravinder Ravi, Maheshwar Singh and Randhir Sharma.
The party lost 3 out of the total 5 seats in Hamirpur, the home district of Dhumal. However, the part did exceedingly well in Mandi district, bagging 9 out of 10 seats, and Kangra, the home district of Shanta Kumar, where it captured 11 out 15 seats. The Hamirpur parliamentary constituency, represented by Anurag Thakur, has been a traditional stronghold of the BJP and the assembly segments of both Dhumal and Satti fall under it. Yet the party could win only 10 out of 17 seats whereas it won 14 out of 17 seats in Mandi and 13 out 17 seats in Kangra. Most of the Congress Ministers lost election but Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh proved his mettle as a mass leader once again by winning from Arki, a new constituency, and also ensured the victory of his son Vikramaditya from Shimla Rural constituency. Virbhadra Singh had shifted to Shimla Rural constituency after his traditional seat Rohru was reserved for Scheduled Castes. His influence helped the Congress retain the Rohru and Rampur seats. He single handedly led the party's campaign in what may be his last election.

Prem Kumar Dhumal | Shanta Kumar | Virbhadra Singh State Congress Chief Sukhwinder Sukhu won from Nadaun, though most of the senior Congress Ministers were defeated. They included, Health Minister Kaul Singh and Transport Minister G.S.Bali, both staunch opponents of Virbhadra Singh , who have been eying the post of chief minister for long. Besides, Forest Minister, Thakur Sngh Bharmouri, Urban Development Minister Sudhir Sharma, and Excise and Taxation Minister Prakash Chaudhary also lost.However, Agriculture Minister S.S.Pathania, Education Minister D.R.Shandil and Industries Minister defied anti-incumbency to retain their seats.
Son of veteran leader Sukh Ram, Anil Sharma, who quit as Rural Development Minister to join the BJP on the poll eve, won from his Mandi seat easily but erstwhile Raja of Kullu Maheshwar Singh who merged his HLP into the BJP lost from his traditional Kullu seat. Sukhram proved that he was still a political force to reckon with in his pocket borrow of Mandi.
The Congress strategy to bank on dynastic politics, giving party tickets to kins of established senior party leaders, paid off only partly. Besides Vikramaditya, only Ashish Butail, son of Speaker B.B.Butail, who contested from Palampur, managed to win, Daughter of veteran leader Kaul Singh Champa Thakur (Mandi seat), Son of ex-deputy speaker Ramnath Sharma, Vivek (Kutlehar) and Chander Kumar who contested from Jawali in place of his son Neeraj Bharati, all lost.

The CPM won a seat in the state after 25 years. Its candidate Rakesh Singha emerged victorious in a triangular contest in Theog constituency of Shimla district. The CPM made its entry into the Vidhan Sabha for the first time in 1993 when Singha bagged the Shimla seat.
The outcome of the poll once again made it clear that populism does not help win elections in the

Jairam Thakur After weeklong drama the BJP finally decided to crown five -time MLA from the Seraj constituency of Mandi district as Jairam Thakur as new Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh. He was chosen ahead of Union Minister JP Nadda who was was also in tbe race for the top post. The high command faced an awkward situation as supporters of ex Chief Minister PK Dhumal , wbo lost the election, insisted that he should be made CM as party went to polls under his leadership.They also staged a show of strength before the central observers.The consensus emerged that the chief minister should be from amongst the elected members only. Dhumal and Nadda were thus ruled out of contention.

hill state with high levels of literacy and political awareness. The ploy of Congress to woo the people of Kangra by declaring Dharamsala as the second capital and pushing its case for inclusion in the smart city project ahead of Shimla did not pay. The party could win only 3 out of 15 seats in the district.Even U r b a n Development Minister Sudhir Sharma, who was behind these moves, failed to retain the Dharamsala seat. Some other decisions like grant of unemployment allowance to educated youth and regularisation of illegal structures and encroachments also did not help.

Riding the Modi wave the opposition BJP was on the driver's seat from the word go. In contrast the strong anti-Congress sentiment prevailing at the national level gave the ruling party little hope. The party had virtually given up even before the start of election process.

However, strong resentment over the implementation of GST and the lingering impact of demonetisation gave the Congress potent issues to attack the BJP and make a match of it. The twin issues did improve the public sentiment but the party woefully lacked financial resources and effective campaigners to convert into votes to stop the Modi Juggernaut.

In earlier elections breakaway splinter third parties like the HVC and HLP split the anti-incumbency votes. With no regional party in fray the BJP cornered all the anti-incumbency votes to improve its share from 38.47 per cent in 2012 to 48.8 per cent, an increase of more than 10 per cent, though the Congress lost just 1.1 per cent, down from 42.81 per cent to 41.7 per cent. Consequently, the combined share of two main parties increased to 90.5 per cent from 81.28 per cent in the last election.
With a number senior leaders suffering defeat and some old guards like Shanta Kumar, Vidya Stokes and Virbhadra Singh indicating that they will not contest elections in future, stage has been set for generational change in the two parties.