New Delhi: The elections to 68 assembly seats in Himachal Pradesh will be held on November 12 in a single phase and the votes will be counted on December 8, after a gap of nearly a month.
Now, let us look at some interesting election facts of the hill state.
Since Himachal Pradesh became a state in 1971 (it was a Union Territory till then), only once has an incumbent government returned to power and that was 37 years ago.
It was in February 1985 that then chief minister late Virbhadra Singh, popularly known as Raja, surprised everyone with his decision to opt for mid-term polls. When the state assembly had barely completed only half of its tenure, the wily Raja decided to ride the Indira Gandhi assassination wave after the 1984 Lok Sabha polls.
In fact, Virbhadra Singh had tried to play the trick yet again in 1998 when he advanced the assembly elections by ten months, but he was outmanoeuvred by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Prem Kumar Dhumal and Pandit Sukh Ram, who ushered in the telecom revolution in the country in late 1990s when he was the union communications and information technology minister in the Congress government, headed by PV Narasimha Rao. Raja fell short of a majority by barely one seat and despite taking oath, he had to quit.
There have only been two instances of the Himachal Pradesh assembly not having completed its tenure in five decades -first time in 1985 and then in 1992 when the BJP government, led by Shanta Kumar, was dismissed following the demolition of the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. In fact, it is the only instance of the imposition of Article 356 in Himachal Pradesh.
Among the chief ministers – Shanta Kumar and late Thakur Ram Lal (better known outside the state as infamous the Andhra Pradesh governor who unsuccessfully dismissed the NTR government) – both hold the dubious distinction of never having been able to complete their tenures.
Shanta Kumar was the first non-Congress chief minister in 1977, but following a massive victory of late Indira Gandhi in the 1980 Lok Sabha elections, there were large-scale defections to the Congress, leading to the fall of his government. He became the chief minister for the second time in 1990, only to last till December 1992.
Ram Lal was the chief minister thrice – 1976, 1980 and 1982. His maximum single tenure as the chief minister was of two years – and a total tenure of less than five years though he held the distinction of never having lost his own seat. He even defeated Virbhadra Singh in the 1990 assembly elections.
Among chief ministers and chief ministerial candidates, Shanta Kumar lost his own seat in 1985 and 1993, Dhumal as the chief ministerial candidate in 2017 and Virbhadra Singh was defeated from one seat as the sitting chief minister in 1990. Shanta Kumar and Dhumal lost multiple Lok Sabha polls while Virbhadra Singh was defeated only in the 1977 national elections.
So far, the BJP has gone into elections with a declared chief ministerial face each time though 2017 was an exception, when Dhumal lost and low key Jairam Thakur made it (he is the first chief minister from the Mandi district).
Whenever in opposition, the Congress High Command wanted Virbhadra out but it could not be done in 1993, 2003 and 2012 – when Raja flexed his muscles and all the favourites of the leadership – Sukh Ram, Vidya Stokes and Kaul Singh Thakur – had to bite the dust.
Virbhadra Singh is the longest serving chief minister of Himachal Pradesh at 21 years and six tenures followed by Dr YS Parmar from 1952 to 1976 as the chief minister of Union Territory.
Dhumal (father of union minister Anurag Thakur) is the longest serving non-Congress CM so far at ten years and two full tenures.
In eleven elections so far, the Congress and the BJP have been reduced to single digits once each – the Congress in 1990 and the BJP in 1993. The closest elections were in 1982 and 1998.
So, on December 8, watch out for:
Can Jairam Thakur create history for the BJP in the hill state?
Can Congress convert Virbhadra sympathy and anti-incumbency coupled with price rise into a winning combination?
Is it possible for the hill state to elect its first woman chief minister?