Landslide victory of Pratibha Singh in Mandi parliamentary by-poll, a shot in the arms for chief minister Virbhadra Singh, has set alarm bells ringing in BJP who are hoping to turn the table on Congress in the 2014 parliamentary elections.
The huge defeat margin of 1.36 lakh votes has come as a rude shock to Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) and as a pleasant surprise for Congress. Given the low voter turnout BJP was expecting defeat but with much lesser margin.
BJP having fielded Jairam Thakur, a candidate with a clean image, would have done much worse had it put up any other candidate against Pratibha, who not only happens to be the chief minister wife but belongs to the royal family of Rampur Bushair.
In the absence of any strong candidate, it was a reluctant Jairam who was persuaded by BJP high command to contest for the bye election.
The election was a prestige issue for congress as the election had been cause by Virbhadra Singh vacating it after being elected as chief minister, six months ago. The ruling party left no stone unturned to ensure victory of the party candidate. Pratibha has won the seat for the second time.
Himachal Lokhit Party (HLP), the regional outfit floated by former traditional BJP candidate Maheshwar Singh persistently targeted former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and his cricketer turned politician son Anurag Thakur in the election campaign over land issues and corruption.
This election was also a test for Congress minister and state president Sukhvinder Singh Sukkhu. All ‘scored’ good marks in the shadow of Virbhadra Singh and for the first time three former Loksabha members Virbhadra Singh, Sukh Ram and Maheshwar Singh were on one page to campaign for Pratibha Singh.
Jairam did put in much efforts to secure good votes but it was only Dhumal from BJP, who campaigned tirelessly. Shanta Kumar and Jagat Prakash Nadda also did spare some time but could not make any difference.
BJP has been talking about introspection but what it really needs is to make some changes within the organization otherwise the faction ridden party would not achieve anything.
This election would not have much bearing upon the 2014 poll but BJP has to work hard to retain the other 3 seats, which includes the seat of Anurag Thakur from Hamirpur.
Saurabh Chauhan, an independent journalist, has 10 years of experience in Print and Digital Media. He has written on a variety of issues including women’s rights, environment, crime, governance, finance and politics at Shimla, Chandigarh and Lucknow. Saurabh is currently based in Lucknow.