Staying committed to its four-decade-old trend, Himachal Pradesh dethroned the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the Assembly results declared on Thursday. The electoral battle that went down to the wire eventually paved the way for Congress’s strong comeback in the hill state.
The party clinched 39 out of the total 68 seats.
HIMACHAL PRADESH ELECTION RESULTS LIVE HERE | CONG CANDIDATES FOR CM POST HERE
A look at five factors that steered the party to its successful comeback:
ANTI-INCUMBENCY AND REBEL FACTOR
In the past 37 years, Himachal Pradesh has never bucked its tradition of changing the government every five years. While chief minister Jai Ram Thakur-led government vowed to end the decades’ old trend with party’s call for “raaj nahi, riwaaz badlega", the voters decided otherwise. The Congress, on the other hand, was buoyed by this anti-incumbency and exuded confidence of returning to power all through its campaign, despite having no clear consensus on its CM face.
ALSO READ | ‘Cleverly’ Hills To Pick its Star Soon: Mahila with BJP, Karamchari with Cong? Himachal Ground Report
The ticket distribution also went awry for the ruling BJP, giving rise to as many as 21 rebel leaders across all districts. While it tried hard to placate them, several of them still contested as independent candidates and divided the party’s votes in the state.
हिमाचल विधानसभा चुनाव में कांग्रेस की प्रचंड जीत के लिए समस्त हिमाचलवासियों व पार्टी कार्यकर्ताओं को हार्दिक बधाई एवं शुभकामनाएं।यह जीत आप सब की है।हिमाचल की जनता ने इतिहास रच कर ये सन्देश साफ़ दे दिया है कि यह जीत हिमाचल के विश्वास की है। #जीत_गई_है_कांग्रेस pic.twitter.com/fl8LToOmok— Himachal Congress (@INCHimachal) December 8, 2022
PROMISE TO REVIVE OLD PENSION SCHEME (OPS)
With more than 2.5 lakh government employees, the issue of revival of the old pension scheme (OPS) reverberated loud and clear all through the election season. While both the parties tried to win the employees’ support with a promise to implement the old regime, their vote has gone in favour of the Congress whom they entrusted with the task of delivering on their poll promise.
ALSO READ | Himachal Pradesh: Difference Between Old & New Pension Scheme in 4 Points & Why It’s A Poll Plank
The party had also been citing examples of Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan where the Congress-led government had started the process to implement the old scheme.
#HimachalElectionResult | “We will form a government with a full majority. She (Pratibha Virbhadra Singh) is one of the contenders for the CM post": Congress leader Vikramaditya Singh #ResultsWithNews18 #HimachalElectionResults2022 #Election2022 pic.twitter.com/jwob3HszLy— News18 (@CNNnews18) December 8, 2022
ANGST AGAINST UNEMPLOYMENT AND AGNIVEER
Leading the campaign without its tallest state leader Virbhadra Singh, who passed away last year, the Congress carefully chose to connect with people on local issues than the national ones. It tapped into the public resentment against inflation and a worsened unemployment rate. Concerns were rife over lack of government jobs in the first election held post-pandemic.
ALSO READ | Split Over Agniveer, Will Himachal’s Army Veterans be Chink in BJP’s Poll Armour, Silver Lining for Congress?
The hill state also sends a high number of soldiers to the defence forces and a significant fraction did not favour the Centre’s Agniveer scheme, which seems to have benefitted the Congress. In her mega rally in Kangra, Priyanka Gandhi promised to end the recruitment scheme if the Congress returns to power in 2024. The party also contested the election with a promise to provide one lakh jobs to the youth in the first year and start-up funds to support self-employment.
UNHAPPY APPLE GROWERS
With their presence in almost half of the total 67 constituencies, apple growers hold a significant sway over the poll results in Himachal Pradesh. However, this time, they were among the most disgruntled lot due to dwindling profit margins, rising input costs and angst against the private companies who have been controlling the price regime of the state’s most prized fruit. To add to the woes, the latest hike in GST rates on packaging hit them hard, and perhaps dealt a severe blow to the BJP’s prospects.
ALSO READ | Discontent Among Himachal Pradesh Orchardists Grows, Will they Upset BJP’s Apple Cart in Elections?
The Congress, on the other hand, capitalised on the simmering concerns and promised to fulfill their demands including Minimum Support Price (MSP) for apple. The party also promised to form a committee with representatives of farm unions who will decide the price of the fruit.
OPS हिमाचल के कर्मचारियों का हक है। कांग्रेस पार्टी पहली Cabinet की बैठक में OPS लागू करेगी।हिमाचल के एक-एक कर्मचारी, युवा, महिला, बागवान की जिम्मेदारी है कि वे अपने साथ के लोगों को हिमाचल वासियों के हितों की परवाह करने वाली पार्टी के पक्ष में मतदान करने की अपील करें। pic.twitter.com/Bff5vyDjE4
— Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (@priyankagandhi) November 10, 2022
PRIYANKA GANDHI’S SUCCESSFUL CAMPAIGN and CONNECT WITH WOMEN VOTERS
A resounding victory in Himachal Pradesh also brought the first electoral success for Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi, who spearheaded the party’s campaign in the state. She addressed nearly 10 rallies across the state, after launching the party’s campaign in October with a promise to restore OPS. Her connect with women voters also bolstered the party campaign.
ALSO READ | As Priyanka Leads the Charge, Cong Looks to Finally Fire Up Its Himachal Campaign in Rahul’s Absence
With a 48% vote share, the women of the hill state have a clear voice in the state elections. Not only did they turn up in record numbers to cast their vote, but also outnumbered men by as much as 4.5%. While the state BJP unit continued to bank on Centre’s schemes such as Ujjwala, it was overridden by concerns over rising prices of essential commodities. Women across constituencies were vocal about how inflation and lack of jobs affected their families, which also turned them away from the ruling government. The Congress had also announced a monthly incentive of Rs 1,500 for all women aged 18-60.
Read all the Latest Politics News here