How Congress bigwigs dislodged BJP to continue Himachal’s ‘riwaz’

Congress heavyweights played a critical role in stalling the BJP juggernaut in Himachal by keeping aside factionalism and ego-tussles

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By: Anand Singh
Updated: 08 December, 2022 9:48 pm IST

The proverbial ‘riwaz’ in Himachal — the tendency of the state’s voters to not bring the same government to power twice in a row has been retained despite BJP trying every trick in the book to reverse the tradition. While voter’s sagacity must be credited for not trusting the same government consecutively lest they become complacent, one cannot deny the crucial role played by  Congress heavyweights in snatching a close victory. Keeping aside factionalism and ego-tussle, these bigwigs put up a united fight to stall the BJP juggernaut in scoring this hard fought victory the Grand Old party needed badly to remain politically relevant.

Much credit also goes to Priyanka Gandhi, who BJP veteran Prem Kumar Dhumal rejected as a failure,  for spearheading the campaign in a way that fortified Himachal’s public opinion from Modi magic or national issues. The central leadership was also largely able to keep factionalism at bay, which now reflects in their performance.

Let’s take a look at how the Congress bigwigs took down BJP and what pockets they were most successful in attacking the ruling party.

Several veteran Congress leaders like Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, Mukesh Agnihotri, Kuldeep Rathore, Dhani Ram Shandil and former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh son Vikramiditya Singh emerged victorious in the closely contested battle.

Sukhu, who is said to be the frontrunner for the post of the Chief Minister won from Nadaun, which is part of Hamirpur Lok Sabha seat in the assembly polls, defeated BJP’s candidate Vijay Kumar Agnihotri.

Even sitting Congress MLA from Shimla (Rural) Vikramaditya Singh retained his seat by defeating his nearest rival Ravi Kumar Mehta of the BJP by a margin of 13,860 votes.

Congress leader Anirudh Singh retained Himachal Pradesh’s Kasumpti assembly seat by defeating his nearest BJP rival and state minister Suresh Bhardwaj by a margin of 8,655 votes.

Bhardwaj was shifted to Kasumpti from Shimla Urban seat.

Singh, a member of the erstwhile Koti royal family had raised the issue of restoration of the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) during the election campaign.

Former Himachal Pradesh Congress chief Kuldeep Rathore won from Theog assembly seat in Shimla district, defeating the BJP’s Ajay Shyam by a margin of 5,269 votes. Rathore contested for the first time in the assembly polls this year.

Meanwhile, Congress’ Bhawani Singh defeated state forest minister Rakesh Pathania to retain Fatehpur seat in the state by a margin of 7,354 votes.

The contest for Fatehpur was keenly watched as Pathania, who had won three times from Nurpur assembly seat, was shifted to the constituency.

Congress Sudhir Sharma won from Dharamshala assembly seat by defeating BJP’s Rakesh Choudhary by a margin of 3,285 votes.

Congress candidate Ravi Thakur defeated BJP candidate and Himachal Pradesh Minister Ram Lal Markanda from Lahaul and Spiti assembly seat by a margin of 1,616 votes.

Considered also to be in chief ministerial candidate race, Congress’ four-time MLA Mukesh Agnihotri also won over his nearest BJP rival Ram Kumar from Himachal Pradesh’s Haroli constituency of Una district. Haroli is a key constituency, particularly for the Congress.

Journalist-turned-politician Agnihotri is contesting for the fifth time, after winning four times in a row.

Congress’s Dhani Ram Shandil retained Solan assembly sest by defeating his son-in-law and BJP candidate Rajesh Kashyap.

Kangra, which is considered population-wise largest district and has 15 assembly seats in the 68-member house, the Congress won 10 seats as compared to three it won in 2017, while the BJP was reduced to four seats. It is popularly said in Himachal Pradesh that the road to Shimla goes through Kangra.

Even two of the ministers from Kangra have to bite the dust. One of the 15 assembly seats went to independents.

Sarveen Chaudhary, the only woman minister in the Jai Ram Thakur cabinet, lost from Shahpur to Congress’ Kewal Singh.

The BJP and the Congress had campaigned extensively in Himachal Pradesh for November 12 polls.

The Congress campaign was led by party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, party observers Bhupesh Baghel (Chhattisgarh Chief Minister), Sachin Pilot, senior Congress leaders like Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge, Randeep Singh Surjewala taking the charge.

The Congress raised the issue of OPS, Rs 1,500 to every woman between the ages of 18 to 60 among many others.

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