Jai Sri Ram slogans were being chanted in the streets of the capital city of Shimla on June 17. For the past four decades, Shimla is considered to be a stronghold of Congress. But this time, picture was different. Saffron flags had taken the place of Congress tricolour on The Ridge and BJP had emerged as single largest party in the Shimla Municipal Corporation (SMC) elections. Ruling Congress was defeated and CPM, which had its mayor and deputy mayor in the previous house, was marginalised to one seat. Jai Sri Ram slogans were repeated again on June 20 when BJP mayor and deputy mayor were elected in the Shimla Municipal Corporation, first time in the last
31 years. It was a big jolt for the Congress on its home turf in the election year.
In the 34 member house BJP had won 17 seats, one short of the majority, in the election which was fought on non-party basis. Congress could only secure 12 seats in the elections while one seats had gone to the independents. Congress had also won 12 seats in 2012 MC elections. One of the BJP revel, who had fought election as an independent, later announced his support to the party which raised BJP tally to 18. However, on the Mayoral election day BJP managed to secure 19 votes. Thanks to the cross voting by one of the Congress member. This helped BJP to secure comfortable majority in the house. Just two months back BJP had also won the Bhoranj Assembly by-election in Hamirpur district, home district of Prem Kumar Dhumal, leader of opposition and former chief minister. Before that BJP had also won Sujanpur Tihra assembly by-election by defeating the ruling Congress candidate by a huge margin.
These victories have come as a big morale booster for the BJP and Dhumal, who is considered to be the main contender for the post of chief minister, if BJP comes to power in November Assembly elections. After results while talking to Tehelka, Dhumal said â€˜this is defeat of bad governance of Congress rule in the state and serious corruption charges against chief minister Virbhadra Singh whose matter is in the court. People are fed up of Congress and we are going to win next assembly elections with thumping majority.â€™ He added that BJP government at the centre under the prime ministership of Narendra Modi have made deep impact in the minds of people of the country and Himachal is not apart.
High drama was played after the poll results were out as BJP feared that Congress may woo its newly elected corporators. They were shifted to Panchkula in Haryana, the same night. Even on the oath taking day they were brought under high security to Shimla by the BJP men and also on the day of mayoral elections. Many feel that such kind of things are blot on the face of democracy and also a worrysome thing for state like Himachal which is otherwise considered to be a peaceful state.
Kusum Sadret was elected mayor, who seured 19 votes. Interestingly BJP made its revel Rakesh Sharma as Deputy mayoral candidate who succeded by securing 20 votes, one more then Kusum. Shimla MC post was reserved for woman SC member. Election was held under tight police security. Kusum is 13th and 3rd woman mayor of the SMC. In the history of SMC this is for the first time that BJP has come to power.In the 2012 MC polls direct elections were held for the posts of mayor and Deputy mayor, under the decesion taken by the then Prem Kumar Dhumal government and both the posts were bagged by the CPM, which otherwise had won only two seats.
The Congress camp is worried over the latest political development, however chief minister Virbhadra Singh says that Shimla mc results will not make any impact on assembly elections. while talking to the Tehelka he said – our government have reached out to every needy in the last four and half years. without any regional bias we have made alround development in the state during this period. â€˜you will be see different outcome of the assembly elections. Congress will again form the government in the state. we will also raise the issue of indifferent attutude of the centre towards Congress ruling states which also include Himachal.â€™
Cross voting during Shimla mayoral polls was also witnessed during 2007 and 2012. This time one of the Congress member Sanjay Parmar shifted loyalities towards BJP and during polls one polled in favor of Congress candidates. Interestingly, Parmar had won from kachchi ghatti ward in Shimla rural assembly constituency, which is represented by the chief minister Virbhadra Singh. Naresh Chauhan, Congress media incharge, described it as unfortunate.
Infighting paid heavy price for Congress in the corporation elections. There were as many as half dozen revels fighting against official party candidates in the corporation elections. While BJP managed to win over the revels, Congress failed to do so. It resulted in a humaliating defeat for the party in the polls. At the same time two major factions of chief minister Virbhadra Singh and state Congress chief sukhwinder sukhu are openly out to fight against each other. They are not leaving any oppurtunity to accuse each other. This is also an interesting factor that Congress government had earlier refused to hold the municipal corporation elections but polls were held only after the Himachal Pradesh High Court directed the government to do so.
Other major factor which badly hampered Congress prospects in these elections was death of about three dozens of people due to jaundice which broke out due to contemenated water in the capital city last year. Both Congress government in the state and cpmâ€™s mayor and deputy mayor in the corporation, failed to control the epidemic which spread in the city and streched for three long months. Even few senior officers in the government fell ill and few of them were rushed to PGI, Chandigarh for the treatment. One of the government officer died due to jaundice in Shimla. This sent wrong message among the Shimlaites. Frequent foreign visits of CPM mayor and deputy mayor, serious scarcity of drinking water also created anger among the people. The water situation in the capital city can be judged from one example that people were getting water after three days. The rationing of water caused lot of problems for the common people in the city, known as â€˜Queen of Hillsâ€™ among the tourists who visit in lakhs.
In the 2012 municipal polls, direct elections were held to elect mayor and deputy mayor and CPM had bagged both the posts. Besides them CPM had won only in two other wards. That was also for the first time in the history of Shimla Municipal Corporation that CPM won the mayor and deputy mayor posts. Shimla Municipal Corporation was constituted in 1986 and it was Congress who won all the elections till 2012.
Despite victory in the SMC polls, it will not be a cake walk for the BJP in the coming assembly elections to be held in the end of this year when Congress government will complete its five year term. Congress had won the Dharamshala municipal corporation elections in the beginning of this year, which falls in kangra distrcit and considered to be a stronghold of the BJP. The BJP is mainly harping on the cherishmatic image of prime minister narendra Modi. this is also an interesting factor that people of this hilly state change governments in every election. if this factor is taken to the consideration then it is turn of BJP to come in to power this time. the ruling Congress is still harping on old war horse Virbhadra Singh, who is six time chief minister and considered to be one of the most popular leaders in the stateâ€™s political history.
In the last three decdades Virbhadra Singh have played a major role for Himachal Congress in forming its governments inthe state. infect Congress have fully harped on him. due to this party could not produce new leadership in these years. and now when Virbhadra Singh is 82 years old and is facing serious kind of corruption charges in the courts, party has no strong leader in its kitty who could face strong challenge of the BJP lead by former chief minister and leader of opposition Prem Kumar Dhumal who had fought the Congress and its government in and outside the assembly bravely. moreover BJP is in the power at the centre and its stalwarts like jagat prakash Nadda are frequently attacking Virbhadra Singh for corruption charges. Congress is countering the BJP charges saying that this is vindictive politics of BJP government at the centre which is allegdly misusing cbi to harash the Congress chief minister, who have 50 years of clean public and political life.
it is also true that Congress have to turn to the young leaders after the coming assembly elections. Virbhadra Singh, popularely known as â€˜raja sahebâ€™, is old now. in this situation party may eye on young turks like mukesh agnihotri and sudhir sharma. both are first time ministers in Virbhadra government. interestingly both are considered to be staunch loyalists of chief minister Virbhadra Singh. others who are also in the waiting list are eight time mla and health minister kaul Singh thakur and strongman and transport minister GS Bali. both thakur and bali are Virbhadra Singh rivals and are backed by state Congress chief sukhwinder Singh sukhu. it is said that agnihotri and sharma have good rapo with some senior leaders at the Congress high command level. agnihotri is considered to be close to ahmed patel, political secretary to Congress chief sonia gandhi while sudhir sharma has links to Congress vice president rahul gandhi and his sister priyanka vadra. Another name which is doing the rounds is of senior party leader anand sharma, who was minister in the man mohan Singh government. he hails from Shimla, though did not have much clout in the state Congress and masses.
In the last three years, state Congress have witnessed serious kind of infighting between two factions lead by the chief minister himself and the PCC chief. at many times a worst kind of gap is seen between the Congress government and party the organisation which have put the common worker in jeopardy. few months back senior minister gs bali and pcc chief sukhu had opened front against the chief minister for not fulfilling the previous poll manifesto promise of providing financial help to the state unemployed youth. later cabinet passed a resolution to pay financial help to unemployed youth, however nothing concrete has been done so far on this front. on many other issues including appointments in the pcc have broadened the gap between two leaders. at a time when assembly elections in the state are approaching near, party infighting may cause harm to its prospects.chief minister himself and the pcc chief. at many times a worst kind of gap is seen between the Congress government and party the organisation which have put the common worker in jeopardy. few months back senior minister gs bali and pcc chief sukhu had opened front against the chief minister for not fulfilling the previous poll manifesto promise of providing financial help to the state unemployed youth. later cabinet passed a resolution to pay finanancial help to unemployed youth, however nothing concrerete has been done so far on this front. on many other issues including appointments in the pcc have broadened the gap between two leaders. at a time when assembly elections in the state are approching near, party infighting may cause harm to its prospects.
BJP leadership row
Though leader of opposition Prem Kumar Dhumal has done best at his level in the last five years, yet it is considered that Union Health Minister JP Nadda is a serious threat in the BJP to his prospects as future chief minister of the state, if BJP comes to power in November 2017 elections. Though political experts feel that would rather prefer to stay in Delhi. BJP leadership may even go for out of box choice. For this, name of RSS and BJP man Ajay Jamwalâ€™s is taken in the BJP quarters. Former chief minister Shanta Kumar seems to be totally out of the race as he is not considered in the good books of the PMO. the most interesting factor in the state BJP is that Dhumal was fully backed by Narendra Modi for the Himachal chief minister post in 1998 when former was state BJP incharge general secretary. thats why it is said that Modi may support Dhumal this time also.
Nadda on the other hand is considered to be an ambitious leader and have made his strong position in the high command with his hard work and organisational skills. he is close not only to BJP president Amit Shah but also to the prime minister. Former ABVP and BCCI chief Anurag Thakur has also earned good fame in the BJP, though he is quite young yet and may have to wait for the top state post. many feel that Dhumal shall be the best chief ministerial choice for the party who is considered to be the most popular leader in the state after chief minister Virbhadra Singh.