M A I N   N E W S

Cong wrests Himachal, Modi scores a hat-trick
Anti-incumbency, Dhumal-Shanta rift sink BJP
Rakesh Lohumi/TNS

Shimla, December 20
The Congress bounced back to power in the hill state winning 36 out of the total 68 seats, while the ruling BJP had to contend with 26. As expected, the Independents put up a good show to bag five seats. The BJP breakaway group Himachal Lokhit Party, which had floated the Third Front with the CPM and the CPI, could just muster a solitary seat.

The Congress, which had 23 members in the outgoing House, improved its tally by 13 seats, while the BJP’s score came down to 26 from 41. The margin of victory was not very big but it was a creditable performance by the Congress keeping in view the prevailing anti-party sentiment at the national level due to unfolding of various scams and measures like reduction in number of subsidised LPG cylinders.

The political aware electorate maintained the three-decade old tradition of voting out the incumbent government and gave a clear verdict in favour of the Congress throwing aside all the predictions of a hung House. The strong anti-incumbency factor against the Dhumal government more than neutralised the impact of national issues such as price rise, corruption and FDI on which the BJP was banking on.

While four out of 11 BJP ministers, Ramesh Dhwala, Krishan Kapoor, Narinder Bragta and Khimi Ram, were defeated, some prominent Congress leaders like former Speaker GR Musafir, former ministers Ram Lal Thakur, Rangila Ram Rao and Vijay Singh Mankotia and national mahila Congress chief Anita Verma also lost.

The prominent winners included Chief Minister PK Dhumal, state BJP Chief Satpal Satti, ministers Gulab Singh, Mohinder Singh, Ravinder Ravi, Jai Ram, ID Dhiman, Sarveen Chaudhary. PCC Chief Virbhadra Singh, CLP Leader Vidya Stokes, Kaul Singh, GS Bali and Asha Kumari, former Congress minister, and HLP president Maheshwar Singh also emerged victorious. Rajiv Bindal, who had to resign as Health Minister, also won.

The Dhumal-Shanta Kumar rift cost the party dearly as evident from the poor performance of the BJP in Kangra were the party could win only 3 out of 15 seats while Congress bagged 10, while the decision of the Congress high command to hand over the reins of the party to Virbhadra Singh at the last minute helped the party win despite intense factionalism.

While the BJP lost out in its traditional stronghold of Kangra, made deep inroads into the Congress-dominated old Himachal Sirmour, bagging 4 out of 5 seats, and Chamba (3 out of 5 seats). The Congress did well in Shimla, the home district of PCC Chief Virbhadra Singh and CLP Leader Vidya Stokes, winning 6 out of 8 seats and the BJP securing just 1.

The two parties shared the honours in Mandi securing 5 seats each, while Congress fared well in the Kullu district, where it failed to open its account in 2007, winning 2 out of 4 seats and the BJP had to contend with one seat. HLP president Maheshwar Singh won the Kullu seat.



Modi magic works in Gujarat, Keshubhai fails to strike chord
Manas Dasgupta

Ahmedabad, December 20
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi today led the Bharatiya Janata Party to a third consecutive win in the state Assembly elections capturing 115 seats in the 182-member House, short by two seats from his 2007 performance of 117 seats.
Surprisingly, the state presidents of both the Congress and the BJP were defeated.

While it was a hat-trick for Modi, a record by any Chief Minister in the state so far, for the BJP it was the fifth straight win since 1995. The Congress which again failed to dislodge the BJP, ended with 61 seats along with its ally, the Nationalist Congress Party, two better than 59 it won in the last elections.

The Gujarat Parivartan Party floated by the former Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel with the support of the disgruntled elements of the BJP to show Modi the “exit door,” ended up a cropper with only two seats, with Patel winning from Visavadar in Junagadh district in the Saurashtra region. Four seats went to Independents and others. In a tactical move, soon after the results were declared, Modi called on Patel at his Gandhinagar residence and sought blessing of the 84-year-old erstwhile stalwart of the BJP.

Modi retained his Maninagar seat in Ahmedabad city by a comfortable margin of over 86,000 votes, though a few hundred less than last time, while the Congress suffered serious setbacks with its state unit president Arjun Modhvadia and Leader of the Opposition in the outgoing state Assembly, Shaktisingh Gohil, losing the elections.

Accepting the moral responsibility of the party’s debacle, Modhvadia immediately submitted his resignation as the party president to the high command while Gohil would automatically lose his constitutional post equivalent to the status of a minister of state.

The third popular leader of the Congress, Shankarsinh Vaghela, a former Chief Minister, however, won from Kapadvanj. Another former state president of the party, Siddhartha Patel, the son of

the former Chief Minister Chimanbhai Patel, was also defeated in Dabhoi in Vadodara district.

Modhvadia’s counterpart in the state BJP, RC Faldu, was also defeated in Jamnagar rural besides seven ministers in the outgoing Modi cabinet, including Agriculture Minister Dillip Sanghani, Cabinet spokesman and Tourism Minister Jaynarayan Vyas, and Minister of State for Home Praful Patel.

While delimitation of the constituencies that changed the nomenclature, character and composition of more than 60 seats, has made it difficult to pin-point how many seats the BJP or the Congress retained or lost, it was clear that Modi has continued to hold sway over the urban electorate winning 15 of the 17 seats in Ahmedabad city and all four in the district, six of the eight seats in Vadodara, 12 of the 13 seats in Surat, all five seats in Rajkot, and most of the seats in Bhavnagar, Junagadh and Jamnagar cities.

Region-wise, the situation has remained almost unchanged. 





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