The BJP surged ahead of the Congress in Himachal Pradesh, winning close to a two-thirds majority with 42 seats in its kitty and leading at two more seats in the 68-member Assembly.
The Himachal Pradesh electoral ground is a tale of victory and defeat, one that Congress' chief minister Virbhadra Singh and BJP's Prem Kumar Dhumal will surely identify with.
Winning and losing, the two leaders have probably realised, are but two sides of the same curious coin. While Singh won his seat, his party lost the state. And, in a neat flip, the BJP wrested the state from the Congress but its chief ministerial candidate Dhumal was trounced at the Sujanpur constituency.
Both are Thakur leaders, both are former chief ministers, both were hoping for another stint at leading the state. But the chief minister's chair has evaded both this election.
The ruling Congress managed to win 20 seats and is leading in one, with its chief ministerial candidate and sitting incumbent Singh winning with a slender margin of 6,051 votes from Arki. The chief minister's son Vikramaditya Singh also marked his maiden victory in the Assembly with a margin of 4,880 votes from Shimla (Rural), the seat his father was earlier representing.
BJP wins, Dhumal faces defeat
The BJP's state chief Satpal Satti was defeated in Una by the Congress' Satpal Singh Raizada. Dhumal faced defeat against close rival Rajinder Rana of the Congress from Sujanpur, the seat he was asked to contest from. Ironically, Rana was once the "election manager" of Dhumal and knows his family well. Rana defeated two-time chief minister Dhumal in a straight contest by 2,933 votes.
"In politics, one faces defeat while another faces a win. It will be a failure on our part not to be able to give justice to the people (of Sujanpur). It's time for introspection," an emotional Dhumal told reporters in his hometown Hamirpur.
Dhumal had swapped his Hamirpur seat, the pocket borough of the BJP, with party legislator Narendra Thakur, who won the seat.
Political observers told IANS the contest was interesting between Dhumal and Rana, who had defected from the BJP, as the latter knows Dhumal and his family, inside and out.
Virbhadra Singh wins, party loses
Singh accepted the party's defeat in the Assembly elections. "I own responsibility for my party's defeat," he told reporters in Shimla.
He was categorical in accepting the mandate by saying: "It's the people's decision to make one victorious. This is their right."
Singh refused to put the blame on Congress president Rahul Gandhi. "The elections were conducted under my leadership and I accept our defeat."
Dhumal's close confidants Ravinder Ravi, Gulab Singh Thakur and Randhir Sharma, all sitting legislators, and Tejwant Negi, lost.
However, BJP's Jairam Thakur won the elections and would represent Seraj for the fifth consecutive time.
Congress Cabinet ministers Kaul Singh, Sudhir Sharma, Thakur Singh and Prakash Chaudhary faced humiliating defeat from the BJP.
Kaul Singh's daughter Champa Thakur suffered defeat at the hands of BJP's Anil Sharma from Mandi.
Sharma resigned from the government and the ruling Congress and joined the Opposition BJP just ahead of the polls along with his father and former telecom minister Sukh Ram.
Likewise, BJP's Ravindra Dhiman defeated Congress' sitting legislator Yadvinder Goma from Jaisinghpur and Kishori Lal of the BJP defeated Bansi Lal of the Congress from Anni seat.
BJP's sitting legislator Suresh Bhardwaj retained his Shimla seat, defeating Congress' Harbhajan Bhajji.
Independent Hoshiar Singh dealt a humiliating defeat to BJP and Congress heavyweights Ravinder Ravi and Viplove Thakur, respectively, in Dehra.
Congress' sitting legislator Anirudh Singh retained his Kasumpti seat by defeating BJP's Vijay Jyoti Sain. Both belong to the royal families.
CPM's Rakesh Singha defeated his near rival Rakesh Verma of the BJP from Theog. In a statement, the CPM politburo said the victory of its candidate Rakesh Singha was significant as it came against the background of a highly polarised election between two major parties.
"This victory reflects the faith the people of Theog have reposed in the CPM to protect their rights and work for their interests in the Himachal Pradesh Assembly," the party said.
Singha is one of the most prominent faces of the party in Himachal Pradesh.
A total of 337 candidates contested the 9 November election. A total of 37,83,580 people voted in the hill state, a record 75.28 percent polling.
The Congress and the BJP contested in all the 68 constituencies. Most exit polls had predicted the BJP's return to power with a majority.
The state has alternately elected Congress and BJP since 1985. In 2012, the Congress won 36 seats and the BJP 26. Independents bagged six seats.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Dec 18, 2017 22:27:26 IST