December 19, 2017 5:12:30 am
At least five out of 11 members of the council of ministers of the outgoing Virbhadra Singh government in Himachal Pradesh lost their elections as result of the latest Assembly polls were declared on Monday. Out of 11, only nine had contested on a Congress ticket. While party stalwart Vidya Stokes, an eight-time MLA, did not contest, Anil Sharma contested from Mandi Assembly constituency on a BJP ticket and won by a huge margin of over 10,000 votes. Besides Virbhadra Singh, who won from Arki, three of his Cabinet colleagues Mukesh Agnihotri won from Haroli in Una district, Col (retd) Dhani Ram Shandil won from Solan and Sujan Singh Pathania won from Fatehpur Assembly constituency.
Anti-incumbency, allegations of patronising mafia, corruption, and deterioration in law and order cost the Congress dear in Himachal elections and made several party stalwarts bite the dust. Excise and Taxation Minister Parkash Chaudhary from Balh Assembly constituency in Mandi district lost to BJP’s Inder Singh by a huge margin of 12,811 votes.
One of the major allegation against the minister was that he had tweaked the liquor policy to allegedly favour a few of his close aides. BJP made it a poll issue during the campaign. Forest Minister Thakur Singh Bharmauri lost to BJP’s Jia Lal by a margin of 7349 votes from Bharmour in Chamba. He was facing allegations of patronising forest mafia responsible for illegal felling of trees.
The issue was raised by BJP in the Assembly also several times to seek his removal from the Cabinet. Another Congress stalwart and Cabinet minister Kaul Singh Thakur, who was contesting his ninth election and was also one of the contenders for Chief Minister’s post if Congress had won, lost to BJP candidate Jawahar Thakur by 6541 votes.
Urban Development Minister Sudhir Sharma was defeated by BJP’s Kishan Kapoor with a margin of 2997 votes. Kapoor polled 26050 votes. Sharma was accused of being inaccessible and could not fulfil promises made to his constituency Dharamshala. He was banking on development works done in the area and Tibetan votes as he was instrumental in getting Tibetans registered as voters for the first time in the Assembly elections.
Transport Minister G S Bali, who has been at loggerheads with CM Virbhadra Singh, too lost by 600 votes to BJP candidate Arun Kumar in Nagrota Assembly constituency. He, however, blamed the faulty EVMs for his defeat.
Although, Bali was trailing in the morning, but later his tally had improved. The result for Nagrota Assembly constituency was delayed due to some technical fault in one of the EVMs. Other ministers, who pulled through despite the incumbency included Agriculture Minister Sujan Singh Pathania from Fatehpur who defeated his nearest rival and BJP candidate Kirpal Singh Parmar by 1284 votes.
Industries Minister Mukesh Agnihotri won from Haroli by defating his nearest rival of BJP Ram Kumar by over 7,000 votes. Sainik Welfare Minister Dr Dhani Ram Shandil was termed victorious from Solan with a narrow margin of 671 votes by defeating BJP rival Rakesh Kashyap.
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh won from Arki by a margin of 6051 votes. Former Rural Development and Panchayat Minister Anil Kumar, who contested on the BJP ticket defeated Kaul Singh Thakur’s daughter, Champa Thakur, by a margin of over 10,000 from Mandi seat. AICC General Secretary and another contender for CM’s post in the Congress, Asha Kumari, was able to win by a narrow margin of only 556 votes from Dalhousie.
She trailed several times during the counting process. The infamous Kotkhai rape and murder of the minor girl had become a huge issue in poll-bound Himachal Pradesh with the BJP staging a series of protests against the incident. While the rape and murder reflected poorly on the Congress-led government, and the mysterious death in custody of an accused later further added to the resentment against the government.
The state government had then handed over the case to the CBI. The electorate of Jubbal-Kotkhai Assembly segment elected BJP candidate Narinder Bragta from the segment. Although his margin of victory at 1062 votes was not impressive, he defeated his nearest rival of Congress Rohit Thakur.
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