The Congress’ drubbing in five state elections and more particularly in Punjab where it was in power has alarmed party leaders in the neighbouring Himachal Pradesh with fears that these results would have a big bearing in the hill state. A report by Anil Manocha
When in a major upset for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Congress managed to stake a claim on all three Assembly seats and one Lok Sabha seat in Himachal Pradesh, where bypolls were held on October 30 last year, the Congress was all set to blaze all guns for the Assembly election due by the year end. However, the good showing by BJP in four States including Uttar Pradesh, Uttarkhand, Goa and Manipur has unnerved Congress everywhere and more so in Himachal where it was hoping for a good show. The Congress was hoping for gaining power in Uttarkhand in view of alleged anti-incumbency against ruling BJP in that state but it got a drubbing. The BJP not only buckled the trend in Uttarkhand but also created a history of sorts by retaining UP with a massive show. The performance on Congress in Punjab was even worst as it got a drubbing from Aam Aadmi Party and even the chief minister lost from two seats that he contested.
According to top rung BJP sources, the party is courting former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal to improve its chances in the Assembly election slated to be held by end of 2022. Dhumal observed that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has on many occasions stressed the importance of double engine government. humal said that BJP will romp home with a comfortable majority when elections are held here. When reminded that the BJP had lost in Mandi Lok Sabha and all three assembly seats — Fatehpur, Arki, Jubbal-Kotkhai — in by-election in October 2021, he observed that this was because of the sympathy of voters for the six-time CM Virbhadra Singh, who breathed his last on July 8 due to post-Covid complications. It is a known fact that Congress sought votes in the name of Virbhadra Singh by raising the slogan, “Vote Nahin, Shardhanjli Hai”. The Congress had fielded late chief minister Virbhadra Singh’s wife Pratibha Singh in the Mandi parliamentary by-election. She had been pitted against BJP’s Brigadier (retd) Khushal Thakur, a Kargil war hero. Elated State Congress chief Kuldeep Singh Rathore had boasted that Congress had won the “semifinal” and would emerge victorious in the Assembly elections in December 2022.
Prem Kumar Dhumal said that sympathy for late Congress leader Virbhadra Singh will not work for Congress in next Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh. Dhumal is a mass leader and after winning 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BJP continuously won all elections in the state and Dhumal was the main face in the campaign till 2017 Vidhan Sabha poll. But after losing his seat from Sujanpur Vidhan Sabha constituency, the rival group did everything to keep him away from mainstream politics and Dhumal limited himself only to Sameerpur. But defeat in one Lok Sabha and three Assembly by-polls came as a big jolt to Chief Minister Thakur and state BJP president Suresh Kashyap. Little doubt that BJP is considering a bigger role for Dhumal.