The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is hoping to buck the anti-incumbency trend in Himachal Pradesh witnessed for nearly four decades as the stage is set for the counting of votes on Thursday for the assembly election in the state.
But it could be the Congress’s turn to form the next government if one went by the state’s “riwaaj” (tradition) and long history of voting out the incumbent government. But with all but two exit polls predicting an edge for the ruling BJP it remains to be seen which way the voters have decided in the closely fought elections.
The BJP slogan this time was “Raj nahin, riwaaj badlega”, meaning the convention will change, not the government.
The BJP has bucked the anti-incumbency trend in the last assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Assam, and Uttarakhand by repeating its state governments there, and is hoping to repeat its government in Himachal Pradesh, which is also the home state of Nadda. It is hoping for an encore on the back of its development agenda,
In the 2017 assembly election in Himachal Pradesh with a house strength of 68, the BJP had won 44 seats and the Congress 21, with one seat going to the CPI-M, and two to independent candidates.
Seraj assembly constituency
Seraj comes under the Mandi district and it is one of the 68 Himachal Pradesh legislative assembly constituencies. The result will be declared on December 8. Incumbent chief minister Jai Ram Thakur is an MLA from the Seraj assembly seat and it has been a BJP stronghold constituency, with Thakur retaining it in each election after winning the seat for the first time in 1998. In 2017, the Congress had fielded Chet Ram Thakur, who lost to Jairam Thakur by over 11,000 votes.
Jai Ram Thakur secured a total of 35,519 votes, while Congress’s Chet Ram got 24,265 votes. In the 2012 poll, Jai Ram Thakur defeated Congress’s Tara Thakur by 5,752 votes.
Haroli assembly constituency
Haroli comes under the Una district. In the Himachal Pradesh legislative assembly election 2017, Haroli constituency had four candidates. Haroli was one of 21 seats won by the Congress. Leader of opposition and former journalist Mukesh Agnihotri has been winning the constituency since 2003, and is seen as one of the chief ministerial candidates for the Congress. In 2022, the BJP has pitted state spokesperson Ram Kumar against him, who lost to Agnihotri in the earlier elections.
Agnihotri had won the election by upstaging Ram Kumar by a margin of 7,377 votes in 2017.
Nadaun assembly constituency
Nadaun comes under the Hamirpur district. In 2017 assembly election, six candidates contested for Nadaun assembly constituency seat. Nadaun was one of 21 seats won by the Congress. It was a close contest with Congress’s Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu winning the election upstaging BJP’s Vijay Agnihotri by a margin of just 2,349 votes.
The Nadaun constituency in Hamirpur district is crucial for the BJP as it is the home district of former BJP CM Prem Kumar Dhumal and Dhumal’s son and Union minister Anurag Thakur.
Shimla Rural assembly constituency
Shimla Rural comes under the Shimla district. In Himachal Pradesh assembly election 2017, four candidates were contesting for Shimla Rural assembly constituency seat. Shimla Rural was one of 21 seats won by the Congress. Congress’s Vikramaditya Singh won the election by defeating Bharatiya Janta Party’s Pramod Sharma by a margin of 4,880 votes.
Vikramaditya Singh, son of late six-time Congress CM Virbhadra Singh, is seeking a second term from the constituency. The BJP has fielded Ravi Mehta from the seat.
Darang assembly constituency
Darang comes under the Mandi district. In the 2017 Himachal Pradesh legislative assembly election, there were six candidates in the fray from Darang constituency. Darang was one of 44 seats won by the Bharatiya Janta Party. BJP’s Jawahar Thakur won the election upstaging Congress’s Kaul Singh by a margin of 6,541 votes.
An eight-time MLA, Thakur has won consistently from Mandi’s Darang constituency for nearly five decades. The BJP has fielded Puran Chand Thakur in 2022.
Theog assembly constituency
Theog comes under the Shimla district. In 2017, five candidates were contesting for Theog assembly constituency seat. Theog was one of the seats won by the Communist Party Of India (Marxist). It was a close contest with CPI(M)’s Rakesh Singha winning the election upstaging BJP’s Rakesh Verma by a margin of just 1,983 votes.
In 2022, Ajay Shyam is the BJP candidate and the Congress has nominated Kuldeep Singh Rathore, who is contesting for the first time against Singha.
Dalhousie assembly constituency
Dalhousie comes under the Chamba district. In the Himachal Pradesh legislative assembly election 2017, Dalhousie constituency had four candidates for assembly seat contention. Dalhousie was one of 21 seats won by the Congress. It was a close contest with Congress’s Asha Kumari winning the election upstaging BJP’s DS Thakur by a margin of just 556 votes.
Kumari won the seat in 1985, 1993, 1998 and 2003, while Renu Chadha of the BJP wrested the seat in 2007. Kumari again won from Dalhousie in 2012 and again in 2017. In 2017, Kumari got a total of 24,224 votes, while DS Thakur got 23,668 votes.
Shahpur assembly constituency
Shahpur comes under the Kangra district. In the 2017 Himachal Pradesh legislative assembly election, there were six candidates in the fray from Shahpur constituency. Shahpur was one of 44 seats won by the Bharatiya Janta Party. BJP’s Sarveen Choudhary won the election upstaging independent candidate Major (RET.) Vijai Singh Mankotia by a margin of 6,147 votes.
Social justice and empowerment minister Chaudhary has been re-nominated by the BJP from Kangra’s Shahpur. The Congress has given the ticket to Kewal Singh Pathania, who came third in 2017.
Kasauli assembly constituency
Kasauli comes under the Solan district. In the Himachal Pradesh legislative assembly election 2017, Kasauli constituency had five candidates. Kasauli was one of 44 seats won by the Bharatiya Janta Party. It was an extremely close fight, with BJP’s Rajiv Saizal defeating Congress’s Vinod Sultanpuri by a narrow margin of 442 votes.
A three-time MLA from Kasauli, Saizal is the minister for family welfare, health and Ayurveda and is the BJP’s candidate from the constituency. In 2022, he will face Vinod Sultanpuri of the Congress whom he had defeated the last two times.