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Himachal witness to transition in 'political values'

The state, which faced critical times last year due to the worst natural calamity and the Congress government not getting much financial support from the BJP-led central government to tackle the crisis on the ground, got another jolt when the 12-month-old Congress government was caught on the wrong foot in the Rajya Sabha election on February 27 this year.

News Arena Network - Shimla - UPDATED: July 10, 2024, 03:20 AM - 6 mins read

HP Chief Minister Sukhu (left), and LoP Jai Ram Thakur.

Himachal witness to transition in 'political values'

HP Chief Minister Sukhu (left), and LoP Jai Ram Thakur.


The tiny hill state of Himachal Pradesh is a witness to many political firsts in the last 18 months since the 2022 Assembly polls, which seemingly do not augur well for the state hitherto known for peace, decorum, and values in politics. 

 

Not only that, the state is losing out on restraint in politics going by the campaign everyone saw in by-polls, and the unexpected turn of events in politics, focussing more on power-tussle than development, is not being seen in a positive light. 

 

The state, which faced critical times last year due to the worst natural calamity and the Congress government not getting much financial support from the BJP-led central government to tackle the crisis on the ground, got another jolt when the 12-month-old Congress government was caught on the wrong foot in the Rajya Sabha election on February 27 this year. The government either had no inkling of it or took the voices of dissent within the party lightly. 

 

There have been instances of cross-voting in Himachal Pradesh in the past when it used to be through secret ballot, yet it was for the first time that six Congress MLAs voted for the opposition party’s nominee, who ultimately won with a draw of lots with their votes coming 34 each in the Assembly of 68. The Congress party’s strength was 40 in the state Assembly, BJP 27, and three were Independents. 

 

Never in the past, six MLAs of the ruling party have been disqualified from the state assembly for defying the whip under anti-defection law within just one day and it has also not happened in the history of Himachal that the rebel MLAs of the ruling party were taken outside the state by the opposition party, guarded by Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) at the instance of Union Ministry of Home Affairs. All these rebels were given luxurious places to stay outside the state till the issue was taken to a logical conclusion as planned by the opposition BJP.

 

The old timers in HP do recall that there have been revolts within the ruling party while running the government earlier, but there were efforts to patch up, which always matured. This time, there was seemingly no attempt for a patch-up - maybe the Congress party was extra cautious about the numbers in the state assembly, and so moved a petition for disqualification of its MLAs within just one day of revolt. This did foil the opposition BJP’s attempt, though, which aimed at destabilising and ultimately toppling the government as in other states. 

 

Congress numbers were reduced to 34 at that time and the total numbers in assembly came down from 68 to 62 with their disqualification.   

 

The six disqualified Congress rebels joined the BJP in March itself, although they had challenged their disqualification in the Supreme Court, which they later withdrew.

 

In another first, the three Independents in the HP assembly, who too had voted against the Congress nominee in the Rajya Sabha poll despite supporting the Congress government in 12 months, too resigned from the state assembly and joined the BJP in March.

 

Out of the six Congress rebels, who were all given BJP tickets in the by-poll on June 1, four lost, again bringing the Congress numbers to 38, and BJP at 27. The three by-polls on seats vacated by Independents, who are now in the fray on BJP ticket, are being held today. 

 

Although dynasty politics has been an integral part of the politics in Himachal Pradesh the established political leaders have tried to push their family members in electoral politics at the cost of party workers, who give their sweat and blood for the party. Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu becomes the second Chief Minister of the Congress party after Virbhadra Singh to get a ticket for his wife as CM. Virbhadra Singh’s wife, Pratibha Singh had however contested Parliament polls, while he was CM in 2004. In a new trend, the present CM’s wife is contesting the by-poll seeking to become a member of the State Legislative Assembly. If she wins, it would be the first time any husband and wife would be members of the same Legislative Assembly in HP. In 2017, Virbhadra Singh and his son, Vikramaditya Singh were elected members of the same Legislative Assembly. 

 

The Chief Minister, who has already denied that his wife was a ticket seeker and has explained that she was contesting the by-poll because high command wanted her to, has however been critical about the falling standards of the politics so far as opposition in a state like Himachal is concerned. 

 

“All this happened because the opposition BJP could not digest that it was ousted from power in 2022 for five years. It has been trying to grab power with money, defeating people’s mandate, which is a bad trend for Himachal. The MLAs in Himachal have demonstrated such a political switch due to money power,” said Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu.  

 

He said people have rejected BJP politics of 'dhanbal' by electing Congress again in four by-polls. 

 

“We will see a similar result in three by-polls today as the resignation by Independents is not justified at all,” he said. 

 

Leader of Opposition, Jai Ram Thakur, on the other hand, said it was not BJP, it was the rebellion in Congress against the Chief Minister’s attitude, which led to the entire crisis.

 

 “The MLAs were being continuously humiliated by the Chief Minister and works in their constituencies were not being done deliberately. So what was the option before them?” Jai Ram Thakur said. He said the Congress government had completely failed in governance. 

 

“The sole concern of Congress in the present regime is to save the chair, nothing else,” he said. 

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