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In Himachal, BJP lost to dissidence

The victory of the Congress in the Vidhan Sabha election in Himachal Pradesh in the end came as no surprise, given the present disarray the Bharatiya Janata Party finds itself in that state. Though the BJP made serious efforts to counter the Congress in Himachal, it could not cope with the challenge posed by anti-incumbency. The BJP dangerously persisted with its leadership in the state which led to a disarray in its ranks. This led to a serious loss of momentum in its development work, as governance was bogged down inner-strife in the ruling party.

The father-son duo of outgoing chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and his member of parliament son Anurag Thakur faced charges of financial impropriety and land grab but they were given a free hand by the party high command. Till the end the outgoing government could not come clean on corruption charges levelled against it. Despite presence of several towering personalities in the party, Dhumal could not mobilise the necessary enthusiasm to build an energetic campaign.

On the other hand, Congress worked overtime to iron out the intra party differences and trusted its old war horse Vir Bhadra Singh to lead the campaign, which he did with aplomb. In an extra-ordinary move Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit as the special messenger of Congress president was assigned the charge to bring the warring factions on the meeting table. The tactics paid rich dividends with veteran politician managing to persuade Singh to accommodate aspirations of his rivals too. Victory of Congress in Himachal is also significant as polling took place in the midst of the hike in diesel price and introduction of the cap on LPG cylinders. Dhumal tried to en cash on the move by announcing free distribution of induction stoves to overcome the LPG crisis. However, it failed to make much impact as the BJP government in the state had not met people’s expectation on the development front.

The Congress now faces the challenge to retain people’s goodwill to sustain the winning momentum till the 2014 Lok Sabha, where every seat would matter for majority in the house. Vir Bhadra Singh is a veteran administrator but his conduct in matters of governance is not above suspicion. For the ageing leader this could just be the god-sent opportunity to make amends and leave behind a rich legacy.
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