The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has suffered a setback in the four municipal corporation elections in Himachal Pradesh winning just one with a clear majority and losing two other civic bodies to the opposition Congress ahead of the 2022 state assembly elections.
Polling was held for four municipal corporations of Solan, Palampur, Dharamsala and Mandi on Wednesday. Elections to Solan, Palampur and Mandi were held for the first time after being carved out as municipal corporations.
The result, that came in late at night, is being seen as a major dampener for the Jai Ram Thakur-led BJP government in the state. The opposition Congress, which had suffered major reverses in the Nagarpalika and Nagar Panchayat elections recently, has managed to claw its way back somewhat by winning Palampur and Solan municipal corporations. Significantly, the Congress managed to win in Palampur, the stronghold of former BJP Chief Minister Shanta Kumar winning 11 of the 15 wards with BJP winning two only.
In Dharamsala, which the Congress had won in 2015, the BJP managed to win more wards than the Congress but fell short of crossing the majority mark. The only relief for the party came with its performance in Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur’s home district, Mandi, where it managed to win 11 of the 15 wards bagging the civic body.
With elections scheduled next year, reverses for the BJP are being attributed to various factors. One, though the Thakur government perceived to have a clean image, its detractors believe that it is not performing. “In the local bodies, there has been a general belief that when it comes to delivering basic results, the government is shying away from taking important decisions. It has failed to deliver despite having a clean image,” admitted a BJP leader.
Also, observers say, the infighting within the party has cost it dearly. “A big number of disgruntled party leaders contested as rebels. Almost 50 per cent of Independents who have won are BJP rebels. If the party could have managed to nip it in the first place, the results would have been different,” said a senior party leader.
The Congress had based its campaign on inflation and the rise of prices of essential commodities. “The petrol, diesel and LPG price hike came at a wrong time for us. That definitely has also contributed to our performance,” said a party leader.