In a major set back to both BJP and the Congress, infighting cost them dear in retaining their seats in Rohru and Jawali in the recent Himachal assembly election. While BJP wrested the Rohru seat from Congress which was earlier held by the Union Steel minister and five times Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh by a decisive margin of 8473 votes. Kushi Ram Balnatha returned victorious after unsuccessfully contesting elections for five times.
The campaign was marked with infighting as Virbhadra Singh was a reluctant campaigner since ticket to his wife Pratibha Singh was denied by the Congress high command. Thakur Kaul Singh, PCC Chief was manhandled in Rohru on the first day of campaigning by Congress workers in presence of Singh on this issue. Congress campaign was marked by statements from Virbhadra Singh comparing BJP’s victory in Rohru to Pakistanis hoisting flag on Indian soil clearly giving indication to party workers which way the wind was flowing. Rohru seat has been a traditional bastion of the Congress and BJP had never been able to save it’s security in the past.
In Jwali bye-election Congress candidate Sujan Singh Pathania was declared elected over the BJP’s Baldev Raj Choudhary by a margin of 5249 votes. This seat had fallen vacant after Rajan Sushant was elected to Loksabha on BJP ticket. BJP too faced infighting within the party ranks as Sudha Sushant, wife of Rajan Sushant was the front runner for ticket but ticket was given to a party worker Baldev Raj Choudhary. The campaign was marked with controversy with Madan Sharma, elder brother of Rajan Sushant filing his nomination as an independent candidate once ticket was denied to Sudha Sushant.
Post election results Congress is now heading to a crisis over leadership issue with both factions heading to a one to one showdown. The CLP leader Vidya Stokes has scored brownie points in the assembly election results with her leading the campaigning in Jawali and Congress winning this seat. On the other hand a five time former chief minister and a Union Minister has bitten the dust in his traditional stronghold marking an end of an era in Himachal politics.
BJP is gradually making strides into the traditional Congress vote bank in Shimla district. Congress strongholds are felling one after the other to BJP. First the Shimla seat, then Jubbal-Kotkhai (which was also represented by two former Congress chief ministers – Thakur Ram Lal and Virbhadra Singh) and now Rohru. It is a matter of time before Rampur too goes into BJP’s kitty. Theog seat is already with an independent supporting BJP and Kumarsain seat has been merged partly into Theog from next election.
One question which remains to be answered is whether dynastic politics will return back to Himachal? Though voters have rejected this notion in the election results. It remains to be seen whether both parties would revert back to dynastic politics when seen from the mirror of winning factor.