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June 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.    Wishing You All a Happy New Year.       June 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:June' 2019

HIMACHAL SCENE

Modi tsunami shatters giants

Rakesh Lohumi

BJP Minister Kishen Kapoor won The Modi tsunami helped the BJP to make a clean sweep of the four Lok Sabha seats in Himachal Pradesh and gave a crippling blow to the unprincipled dynastic politics of former telecom minister Sukh Ram, whose grandson Aashray Sharma,lost from the Mandi seat with a huge margin.
The BJP bettered its performance of 2014 Lok Sabha election, when the BJP had won all the four seats, by increasing its vote share from 53.85 percent to a record 70 percent. The rival Congress polled a meagre 29 percent, down from 41 percent. The margin of victory in all the seats was much higher and even more than the vote polled by rival Congress candidates.
The BJP led in all the 68 segments and it got 16,10,169 votes more than the Congress which managed to get only 10,42,485 votes. Food and Supplies Minister Kishan Kapoor won the Kangra seat with highest margin of 4,77,623 votes, RramSwaroop won from Mandi by 4,05,459 votes, Anurag Thakur from Hamirpur by 3,99,572 votes and Suresh Kashyapfrom Shimla by 84,187 votes. In 2014 Lok Sabha poll the BJP led in 59 assembly segments, while the Congress managed to get more votes in 9 segments and the overall lead of the BJP was 3,92,518 votes.

A Jubiliant Chief Minister Jai Ram after BJP victory Ashray Sharma,grandson of Sukh Ram defeated Sukh Ram’s aura of invincibility was finally shattered as Ashray Sharma suffered a humiliating defeat in Mandi like other three Congress candidates. For once the non agenarian leader misread the pulse of the people and met his Waterloo. Ashray trailed by 27,491 votesfrom Mandi assembly segment, his family pocket borough, currently represented by his father Anil Sharma who was a minister until recently in the Jai ram cabinet. Sukh Ram’s master ploy - switching sides on the poll evedid not work this time. He deserted the BJP on the eve of poll and joined Congress on the condition that his grandson will be given ticket from Mandi, which has been his pocket borough. His action forced his son Anil Sharma, to resign from the Jai Ram cabinet.

Brazen dynastic politics being pursued by Sukh Ram for the past over two decades cost him dearly in the evening of his long political career. He fought back and remerged from worst situations earlier when he was sacked as telecom minster on charges of corruption. He floated his own political outfit Himachal Vikas Congress (HVC) and upset the Congress applecart by winning five assembly seats in 1998 assembly polls.

The division of Congress votes resulted in a hung assembly and Sukh Ram joined hands with the BJP to keep the Congress at bay. The blunder committed by the veteran has already cost his son the cabinet berth and he now faces possible expulsion as BJP MLA for working against the party candidate.

The Congress stalwarts failed to withstand the saffron wave and conceded massive leads in their assembly segments, including Arki, represented by former chief minister Virbhadra Singh, Sontokhgarh, the constituency of Leader of Opposition MukeshAgnihotri, Nadaun andNagrota, the constituencies Sukhuwinder Singh, who ex-PCC Chiefonghand former minister G.S.Bali, respectively.

The overall pro-Modi sentiment across the country and the meticulously planned BJP strategy made the election a onesided contest. While the Congress campaign was not much visible on the ground, the BJP had done extensive spadework for the election for effective campaign at polling booth level. Its “Panna Pramukh” programmeyielded the expected results.

The party had under the programme assigned a page each from the voters list, having about 30 names on average, to 1.46 lakh senior party workers for making personal contact at polling booth level. The party claims that this strategy helped improve its vote share from 5 to 12 percent and led to a huge turnout which saw the polling percentage jump from 64.45 percent in 2014 to 72.25 percent.

In contrast, the Congress failed to put its house in order even after it lost the assembly elections in December 2017. It took a long time in replacing PCC Chief Sukhwinder Singh and appointed Kuldeep Singh Rathore too late. Elections were announced even before he could finalise his team. The result was that there was no coordination and the party even failed to set up election offices in assembly segments. The party lacked financial and material resources and the candidates were left to fend for themselves.

The BJP fielded two sitting legislators, Kishan Kapoor and Suresh Kashyap, and both have won. As a result, the Pachhad and Dharamsala assembly constituencies will soon witness by-polls. Jai Ram Cabinet will have two vacancies as Krishan Kapoor will have to resign as minister and Anil Sharma is already quit. The chief minister gets an opportunity to strike regional balance by giving ministerial berth to left out district like Sirmaur.

It will not be easy for the Congress to recover from the drubbing it received both at the national and state levels. The party has been in a complete disarray in the state ever since it lost power. The Congress leaders and workers have been thoroughly demoralized and they are already worried about the future of the party.

The party will need a complete revamping to make it a vibrant political outfit capable of taking on the deeply entrenched BJP. The gap of 41 per cent in the vote percentage of two parties will require leadership with a new vision and dedicated cadres to work effectively among the people.