Himachal Pradesh swings back to BJP; CM candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal loses

Heavyweights lose Ministers would-be ministers bite the dust in HP

The BJP had claimed 44 of the 68 Assembly seats, and Dhumal had lost in Sujanpur to his former "chela" (follower) turned rival Rajinder Singh Rana of the Congress by around 3,500 votes.

"The party's leadership played spoilsport by shifting his constituency from Hamirpur to Sujanpur", said a BJP panchayat leader at Dhumal's home.

Mr Singh, a six-time chief minister, a scion of the Rampur-Bushahr royal family, and often called "rajaji" for his royal lineage, registered a win from Arki despite the Congress receiving a drubbing. And, in a neat flip, the BJP wrested the state from the Congress but its chief ministerial candidate Dhumal was trounced.

Singh and Dhumal are out of the picture; BJP and Congress will have difficulty with successors. But Mr. Dhumal could still have a say in the given situation due to his personal equation with Mr. Modi.

"We look up to him for his dedication, hard work and commitment towards public life". "We accept the people's verdict".

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The BJP won a near two-third majority in Himachal Pradesh. On his part, Dhumal accepted the defeat, and thanked voters for bringing BJP back to power.

The 73-year-old Dhumal is regarded as a common man's representative and known for promoting infrastructure such as roads in the state. It was a quiet end to a day that began on a tense note when news came at 9.15 am that Dhumal was trailing by around 600 votes. Being a Thakur, which is a dominant caste in the state, Mr. Jairam, who has strong RSS roots, could be a surprise selection. His departure from Himachal politics means that now the hill state has no one with a mass appeal. The name of defeated chief ministerial face Prem Kumar Dhumal has not been ruled out either. An example of this was the choice of then Lok Sabha MP Yogi Adityanath for the post of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister after the BJP's massive victory in March.

Dhumal, who became Himachal's chief minister for the second time in 2007, faced a stiff competition from younger leaders eyeing the CM's chair. In fact, Mr. Nadda has been one of the rising stars of the party since the nineties and enjoys a good rapport with the local party leaders as well as the state cadres. Nadda, a Union minister, is 57, but belongs to the Brahmin community which comprises only 18 per cent of the electorate.

In Kangra, a high profile senior minister, GS Bali, who had been winning Assembly poll from Nagrota since 1998 (four times) lost to Arun Kumar Kuka by 1000 votes, and another minister in Virbhadra cabinet, Sudhir Sharma (who secured consecutive three wins since 2003) lost to former BJP minister, KrishenKapoor in Dharamshala.

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