New Delhi: The byelection results in Himachal Pradesh had given the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) tough lessons and had raised alarm bells among the top leadership in New Delhi which now wants course correction, and has instructed state leaders to check anti-incumbency through welfare schemes and prepare for the bigger battle of 2022 Assembly elections. In the bypolls, the saffron party lost all the three Assembly seats and the prestigious Mandi Lok Sabha seat.
Sources privy to the developments told The Sunday Guardian that the central leadership of the BJP took strong note of the debacle in the state and had planned to design welfare-oriented measures to counter the anti-incumbency and make key changes in the state organization.
On the condition of anonymity, a senior leader of Himachal Pradesh BJP said, “The defeat came for us at the right moment. The elections are one year away. We have time to make a course correction. The party is going to focus on rural seats and local issues through welfare measures in the coming days. You will see the activities of the state government on a war-footing in the coming months which will target the village youths and provide benefits to villagers. We must admit losing the bypolls was worrying. The Mandi Lok Sabha seat loss is the defeat of the state leadership. We lost the Jubbal-Kotkhai Assembly seat because one strong leader Chetan Bragta was not considered for the ticket and he rebelled. We could have avoided it, but we have to find reasons for the defeat in the other two Assembly segments. The central leadership is taking reports from the ground and is looking very seriously for 2022. In the coming days, we will see major changes in the state organization. The RSS and its affiliates are also giving feedback to us on the ground situation and how to prepare for the battle of 2022.”
The loss in Himachal Pradesh raised many eyebrows as it is the home state of BJP national president J.P. Nadda and Mandi is the home district of chief minister Jairam Thakur where the saffron party lost the parliamentary seat. In the 2019 parliamentary polls, BJP’s Ram Swaroop Sharma had emerged victorious by a margin of over four lakh votes.
The Assembly segments of Fatehpur, Arki and Jubbal-Kotkhai went for polls due to the death of the sitting legislatures during the Covid pandemic. In the Fatehpur Assembly segment, Congress candidate Bhawani Singh Pathania defeated BJP’s Baldev Thakur by a margin of 5,897 votes, while in the Arki seat, Sanjay Awasthi of the Congress won by a margin of 3,227 votes over BJP candidate Rattan Singh Pal. In the Jubbal-Kotkhai Assembly constituency, Congress candidate Rohit Thakur managed to defeat the saffron party’s candidate.
Jayant Rathore, a political observer based in Shimla who had covered the state widely, said, “The state leadership stands exposed in the bypolls. During the elections, the party was making tall claims, but all went flat after the results. The verdict had also raised question marks on Jai Ram Thakur’s continuation as the CM. The central leadership of the BJP had realized that the writing on the wall is clear that the party had to do serious introspection, course correction and needs to counter the Congress through villages and panchayats or else, we would see the repeat of what had happened in each election since 1990, with the incumbent party losing power.” Since 1993, Himachal Pradesh had never seen any party returning to power again successively.
Senior BJP leader and Member of Legislative Assembly in Himachal Pradesh Arun Kumar said, “We lost the Jubbal-Kotkhai Assembly seat because one strong leader Chetan Bragta was not considered for the ticket and he rebelled, we could have avoided it. The Congress distracted the voters and made false allegations against us. Our leadership will sit and discuss the loopholes that resulted in the loss. The legislative Assembly elections are one year away, so we have time to learn from our mistakes and correct them. I am sure we will emerge victorious.”