Why it is a big blow to Anurag Thakur

Explained: Why BJP’s defeat in Himachal Pradesh will pinch Anurag Thakur more

The BJP performed poorly in Anurag Thakur’s Lok Sabha constituency Hamirpur in Himachal Pradesh. PTI

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) did exceedingly well in Gujarat but lost power in Himachal Pradesh. With 25 seats, the saffron party was dethroned; the Congress won 40 getting a clear majority in the 68-member Assembly.

After conceding defeat in Himachal, Jairam Thakur resigned as chief minister. Yet, it was Union Minister Anurag Thakur that everyone seems to be talking about.

Also read: Himachal Pradesh continues its tradition: How Congress defeated BJP in the hill state

The big blow

Thakur is a member of Parliament from the hill state. However, in what came as a big disappointment, the BJP won one of the five Assembly seats – Bhoranj, Sujanpur, Hamirpur, Barsar, Nadaun – from the minister’s native Hamirpur district.

There was a time when Hamirpur was the centre of Himachal politics. It was when Thakur’s father and two-time former Himachal chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal was in power. He was the CM from 2008 to 2012 and 1998 to 2003.

However, in the last Assembly elections in 2017, when Dhumal was BJP’s CM candidate, he lost the election from Sujanpur in the Hamirpur district. This year, he was denied the BJP ticket, a decision that left his followers miffed.

A teary-eyed Anurag Thakur had praised the “hard work” done by his father. But while Dhumal and the party maintained that the veteran leader had decided to retire, many thought of it as a sign of helplessness, according to a report by NDTV.

Also read: Himachal Pradesh has given Congress some cheer: Ab kaun banega CM?

The verdict

The Sujanpur seat was won by Congress’ Rajinder Singh. He was up against BJP’s Ranjeet Singh and Aam Aadmi Party’s Anil Rana.

While the Hamirpur constituency went to Independent candidate Ashish Sharma, Nadaun and Barsar were bagged by Congress. It was a close fight in Bhoranj, where BJP’s Anil Dhiman won by 68 votes, according to the Election Commission website. Congress’ Suresh Kumar was a close second.

Explained Why BJPs defeat in Himachal Pradesh will pinch Anurag Thakur more

Anurag Thakur campaigned extensively in his constituency but the results are dismal. PTI

Thakur’s campaigning

Thakur campaigned aggressively in Himachal, with a focus on the Hamirpur district. His father also endorsed the party.

During rallies, Thakur touched upon issues of one rank, one pension and bullet-proof jackets for the army, and Rafale, since Himachal is among the states that contribute the most soldiers to the Indian Army. He also spoke about initiatives for the common man, crediting the Narendra Modi led-government at the Centre for the same. However, it did seem to make much of an impact on the voters of his Lok Sabha constituency.

Nadda vs Dhumal

Party’s national president JP Nadda is also from Himachal. And there was a rift between Nadda and Dhumal supporters of the two with Thakur caught in between.

Dhumal loyalists believed that the demands of their camp were ignored by the BJP leadership and this seems to have made some party cadres unhappy. The national leadership could not contain the rebellion in the state unit or manage the “invisible Dhumal factor” which played against the party’s prospects, a source told The Indian Express.

What worked in Congress’ favour was the promise to restore the Old Pension Scheme if voted to power. The scheme in which the entire pension was given by the government was discontinued on 1 April 2004. In Himachal, around 1.5 lakh people are covered under the New Pension Scheme.

Interestingly, Dhumal, before the BJP released its poll manifesto, had suggested in an interview with The Indian Express that the party should announce reviving the Old Pension Scheme at least for Class IV government employees.

Twitter backlash

After a dismal performance in the Hamirpur district, Anurag Thakur was trending on Twitter with many blaming him for infighting in the party. Even Congress workers and other commentators jumped onto the bandwagon.

Law expert Dushyant A wrote on Twitter that BJP lost the state because of anger among apple growers, Agnipath, inflation and unemployment. In another tweet, he said that in Nadda and Thakur’s state, Priyanka Gandhi had defeated Modi.

In 21 of the 68 constituencies, BJP rebels were in the race. While only two of them won, the other secured significant votes, which could have gone to the party.

Another Twitter user questioned the choice of candidates picked by BJP leaders.

The BJP was hoping that Narendra Modi’s charism would help it break the Himachal tradition of oscillating between two parties. But in the hilly state, it probably needs a little more than the Modi magic. Thakur has some thinking to do.

With inputs from agencies

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