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Monday, November 29, 2021

Bypolls: Congress sweeps all four seats in Himachal; rising prices of essentials, farmer agitation cost BJP dear

The result in Mandi was a setback for the BJP as it is the home district of Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur.

Written by Navjeevan Gopal | Shimla |
Updated: November 3, 2021 8:00:10 am
Pratibha Singh celebrates her victory from Mandi. (PTI)

In a clean sweep, Congress won all the three Assembly seats and parliamentary seat of Mandi which went to bypolls on October 30.
The bypolls were largely seen as referendum on the performance of the BJP government in Himachal Pradesh led by Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur as the hill state goes to Assembly elections next year in November. With no Modi wave this time around, BJP ended up losing on all the four seats where bypolls were held.

BJP paid dearly for rising prices of essential commodities amid the Covid pandemic, which also dealt a big blow to hill state’s forte of tourism. The crash in apple prices also had its fallout, especially in Mandi where Pratibha Singh raised the issue of farm agitation in her poll campaign. Referring to the “year-long farm protest at Delhi borders”, she called the Modi government “andhi, behri, goongi aur tanashah sarkaar (ablind, deaf, mute and autocratic government)”.

A shawl and woolen manufacturer in Kullu said Himachal CM Jai Ram Thakur focused on developing tourism around his home constituency of Seraj, instead of exploiting the natural potential of the regions.

A youngster in Sundernagar, a first time voter, said he was not impressed with the working of governance at the Centre led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Meanwhile, as Mandi parliamentary constituency bypoll went in favour of Congress nominee Pratibha Singh, the election result of Jubbal-Kotkhai assembly constituency had BJP nominee Neelam Saraik forfeiting her security deposit.

In Jubbal Kothkai, BJP rebel Chetan Bragta lost to Congress nominee Rohit Thakur by around 6,000 votes. BJP is said to have taken a hit in the constituency due to “wrong” choice of party candidate.

In Fatehpur and Arki Assembly bypolls, Congress nominees Bhawani Singh Pathania and Sanjay registered victories, respectively.

In Mandi, CM Jai Ram Thakur suffered a major setback with BJP nominee Brigadier Khushal Thakur (retd) lost to Pratibha Singh by over 7,000 votes.

The factor has not played out as it used to in previous elections in Himachal Pradesh. Late Ram Swaroop Sharma had represented Mandi twice riding high on Modi wave and winning last parliamentary election by over 4 lakh votes in 2019. However, the results of Mandi bypoll show Modi factor is no longer there as senior Congress leader Kaul Singh Thakur told The Indian Express in the run up to elections that “this time around there was anti-Modi wave”.

The flavor of elections in last two parliamentary elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was merely a passing reference in Mandi bypoll with BJP banking majorly on Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, who represents Seraj constituency in the district, to seek votes for Brigadier Khushal Thakur (retd), popular as “Kargil war hero”.

BJP candidate from Mandi parliamentary constituency Brigadier Khushal Thakur (retd)’s poll pitch revolves around “being a common man” and an ex-serviceman who did his job honestly.

In his public meetings, Brigadier Thakur who shot to limelight following capture of strategically important Tiger Hill and Tololing peak by 18 Grenadiers in 1999 Kargil war recounted how he started as “patwari” and then served in army for 35 years.

Pratibha banked on her late husband, as she said, “Raja sahib ki aatma upar dev lok se dekh rahi hogi (He must be watching from heavens). He served people for 60 years considering them as part of family and without any discrimination. He must be watching that when he is not around, will people support his party.” She made an appeal to voters to poll every single vote in favour of Congress to pay tribute to Virbhadra Singh.

On Tuesday, after her victory she said to The Indian Express, “I am feeling quite happy and I want to thank people for the efforts they had put to make Congress victorious. They have paid a real tribute to Raja Sahib.”

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