Dramatic Turns In Himachal Politics
Prof N.K. Singh
Former Chairman International Airports Authority of India
I have been forecasting election results for years and by and large accurately even before exit polls. But I always found difficult to forecast the individual success rate so accurately. This time again I was near right; the Congress 23 which got 21 and the BJP 39 finally getting 44. But no one could anticipate the failure of stalwarts and emergence of new leadership that finally is witnessed today. Himachal politics has recently gone though a lot of upheaval as events that took place were never imagined or anticipated looking to the history of the state.
No one could when the BJP won hands down that Prem Kumar Dhumal will lose. Over confident BJP had shifted him late from his own traditional stronghold. No one could think that Virbhadra Singh will be replaced as a result of crushing defeat of his party that he led. Prem Kumar Dhumal who was declared as chief minister candidate by the BJP lost to his disciple Rajinder Rana at a time when he brought the party to a magnificent victory in the state with 44 seats out of 68 seats in the house. But the groom was nowhere when the wedding party arrived. No one imagined this could happen and the BJP was so sure of his win that it took it for granted that change of his constituency at late stage will not matter. Credit, however, goes to his unrelenting hard work and efforts to bring such creditable performance of his party.
Nevertheless, the party acted with speed to do consultations and declare Jai Ram as Chief Minister. Again it was a surprise that he was chosen when he never expected it that he will occupy the chair of the CM. Many scribes asked who is he but he had a solid quiet back ground in the party rising from the ABVP politics to the minister and finally to the Chief Minister. His win five times was without any blemish and his rise from a poor family showed his dedication and spirit of service for the party. Strangely, it too proved to be the golden opportunity to develop long term vision for the party. He is young and can last long to serve the party.
No one had an inkling that Virbhadra Singh is dispensable in the face of acts that he had majority of MLAs supporting him. When Shinde visited him, Sukhvinder Singh was waiting in his office with three only. Raja was in his residence with 13 staking claim to the leadership. Again it was a shake up when the party realised that Mukesh Agnihotri could rise as his replacement in the state. He is comparatively young though competent and dynamic in performance. The probables in Ram Lal and Asha Kumari lost the race to comparatively young in party. Had Kaul Singh or Bali not lost, Agnihotri could never rise to this job. Similarly had Maheshwar Singh, Gulab Singh and Sat Pal Satti not lost, Jai Ram could not have taken the front seat andemerged as Chief Minister. Nevertheless, Agnihotri is now future chief minister candidate for the Congress though he has a major disadvantage that in a Rajput dominant state, he is a Brahmin. In the history of Himachal, the Congress never had a non-Rajput as a CM. The BJP had taken care of this aspect as Jai Ram Thakur is Rajput and J.P. Nadda in comparison to him was a non-Rajput. We can wish away this factor saying that casteism is no good but finally on the ground, it will have its impact. It can be noted from majority win in the party relating to Rajput candidates. Agnihotri will have to discreetly handle this historical limitation.
Ups and downs of politics after the recent assembly poll have alsounleashed immense possibilities of leadership development for both theopposition as well as party in power. The BJP obviously had many choicesonce established leader and other seniors were out of reckoning. Jai Ram was a gift to the party in the process what in management parlance is called uncovering. As a stone is removed to see a flower below, similarly many times deliberate movement is done to find new leadership. For Himachal’s parties it happened as a matter of destiny which made both Jai Ram and Mukesh Aganihoti winners. Much will be seen how these two new heads of both parties in the assembly will perform to write the development story of Himachal.