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Himachal poll results: For Cong’s Asha Kumari, 6-time MLA and CM aspirant, drubbing from Dalhousie

Of five seats in Chamba, BJP wins three, Congress two

Kumari, better known as ‘Asha Rani’ in her constituency, was among the top contenders for the CM’s post in the hill state. (Express Photo by Gurmeet Singh/File)

Even as the Congress is set to form the next government in Himachal Pradesh, the party’s six-time MLA Asha Kumari, who was among the CM seat contenders, suffered a drubbing from Dalhousie constituency of Chamba district, losing against BJP’s Dhavinder Singh Thakur.

A stone crusher contractor, Thakur got 32,863 votes against Kumari who polled 23073, in the fight between two ‘crorepatis’.

Born into the royal clan of Sarguja of undivided Madhya Pradesh and married into the royal family of Chamba, this was the ninth electoral contest for Kumari, better known as ‘Asha Rani’, from Dalhousie (erstwhile Banikhet constituency). In 2017, Kumari, who is also the niece of six-time CM Virbhadra Singh, had defeated Thakur by a wafer-thin margin of 556 votes.

During campaign Kumari had invoked Virbhadra Singh seeking vote as a ‘shraddhanjali’ (tribute) to the Congress stalwart. She had also targeted Thakur with the slogan ‘DS ya OPS?’ (DS Thakur or One Pension Scheme?).

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What apparently went against Kumari was not just anti-incumbency but also the failure to address local issues.

In Dalhousie, a known tourist hub, shopkeepers and locals felt that she had failed to address their local issues. “Despite being a British era hill station, problems here are just increasing for tourists and locals. Parking, garbage, pollution, roads, every issue is here. Developing tourism in Dalhousie was never her focus,” said a local shopkeeper.

After the defeat, Kumari in her reaction said she will “always stay committed towards development of Dalhousie” and thanked voters for “making Congress victorious”.

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Kumari and Congress’s eight-time MLA from Drang Kaul Singh Thakur are among the two senior-most leaders of the party who faced defeat.

In an interview with The Indian Express during her campaign trail, Kumari had said that she had decided against contesting this time but changed her mind after being insisted by her mentor Sonia Gandhi.

Of five constituencies in Chamba district, BJP won three and Congress two, with saffron party registering highest winning margin from Dalhousie.

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From tribal constituency Bharmour, BJP’s first-timer Dr Janak Raj (43), a neurosurgeon who resigned from his government job to contest elections, has defeated Thakur Singh Bharmouri (75), five-time MLA and former Congress minister, by 5,172 votes. Both are from Gaddi community and belong to the same clan. BJP had dropped its sitting MLA Jiya Lal Kapoor and given a ticket to fresh face Dr Janak Raj.

During his unique campaign in tribal villages, Dr Raj checked patients, studied X-rays and wrote prescriptions for the voters and said that he resigned as medical superintendent from Indira Gandhi Medical College (IGMC), Shimla, “to fix the diseased system which required major surgery.”

In Chamba constituency, Congress’s Neeraj Nayar (51), a hotelier and son of former minister Sagar Chand Nayyar, defeated BJP’s Neelam Nayyar by 7,782 votes. BJP faced rebel trouble in Chamba after it changed its candidate Indira Kapoor at the last minute. Indira, who contested as an independent, polled 2,416 votes.

From ‘roadless’ villages to poor internet connectivity, pathetic state of government schools to absence of medical facilities, and on the top of it, rising prices of cooking gas and fuel—- people from Chamba were never silent and expressed anger against ruling BJP for failing to solve basic issues and failure to develop Chamba as a tourist hub, despite it being a haven of natural beauty and ancient architecture and heritage structures. The voters had expressed that even the medical college established in Chamba was just a ‘name ka medical college’ and they have to travel all the way to Tanda, 150 kms away, for a basic treatment, and patients die on the way.

In Bhattiyat, a constituency that was ravaged by flash floods, Congress’s Kuldeep Singh Pathania (65), four-time former MLA, registered his fifth win against BJP’s sitting MLA Bikram Singh Jaryal (61) by 1,567 votes only. Both BJP and Congress candidates witnessed a considerable dent in their vote share with an independent candidate, Nirmal Singh Pandey (39), also polling over 7,600 votes.

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From Churah (SC) seat, which has a sizeable Muslim population, BJP’s sitting MLA Hans Raj has managed third consecutive win over Congress’s first-timer Yashwant Singh Khanna by 2,642 votes. Khanna had resigned as a schoolteacher to contest polls.

First published on: 08-12-2022 at 15:58 IST
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