Virbhadra steers Congress to power in Himachal

Last Updated: Thu, Dec 20, 2012 18:11 hrs
HP Polls: Congress wins, BJP concedes defeat

New Delhi: Congress leaders on Thursday looked at positives from the results of assembly polls after the party scored a clear victory in Himachal Pradesh but failed to check Narendra Modi from scoring a hat-trick in Gujarat.

Party leaders said the results showed that people were not angry with the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). The Congress won a simple majority in Himachal Pradesh and improved its tally by two seats in Gujarat.

"It is a pleasant moment for the party as far as Himachal (Pradesh) is concerned... In Gujarat our seats improved," Congress leader Shakeel Ahmed said.

But the results in Gujarat pointed to leadership crisis faced by the Congress in the state. Both its Gujarat unit chief Arjun Modhwadia and leader of legislative party Shaktisinh Gohil lost the elections.

Ahmed said the party will build new leadership in the state. "New leaders will come up. We have 61 MLAs," he said.

Ahmed said a reason for Modi's victory in Gujarat was hype created by the media that he will become prime ministerial candidate as it helped him gain votes.

"There was media hype that he will become prime ministerial candidate if he wins the Gujarat election," he said and added that the media also "forced" the BJP's national leadership to say that Modi had qualities to become prime minister.

Ahmed, who is incharge of party affairs in West Bengal, said "Keshubhai factor" was another reason for the party's defeat in Gujarat.

"The anti-Modi vote got divided," he said, pointing to Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) of former chief minister Keshubhai Patel which fought the elections.

Congress leaders said the results in Himachal Pradesh were a reply to the BJP campaign against the UPA government on price rise and its economic policy decisions.

They said decision to cap put a cap on subsidised LPG cylinders was taken days before the Himachal Pradesh elections and the BJP attempted to capitalise on the issue.

"At the national level, people have endorsed the UPA. Results of Himachal Pradesh clearly indicate people are not angry with UPA," Congress general secretary B.K. Hariprasad told IANS.

Top Congress leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, party chief Sonia Gandhi and party general secretary Rahul Gandhi campaigned in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.

Congress leaders emphasised that the party had done well in seats Rahul Gandhi addressed rallies.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said the Congress had won all the 23 seats in which Rahul Gandhi campaigned.

Rahul Gandhi heads the Congress coordination committee for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and has faced criticism from opposition parties over his campaign in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh assembly polls which did not result in major gains for the party in these two states.

The results of elections in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat have virtually marked the start of poll season with polls to nine states slated for next year and Lok Sabha polls in 2014.

Congress sources said that the results may trigger internal demands for revisiting its strategy not to project chief ministerial candidates.

Though Virbhadra Singh was the face of the Congress in Himachal Pradesh, the party did not project him as chief ministerial candidate. The party did not project any leader in Gujarat.

BJP leader Siddharth Nath Singh described Congress victory in Himachal Pradesh as "consolation prize" and said its leaders were "scared" to face Modi in Gujarat.

"Gujarat was a major battle which we have won. Congress can at best be satisfied with consolation prize," he said.

Nisar-ul-Haq of Jamia Millia Islamia's political science department said that the poll results were a "victory for Congress not BJP."

He said some Congress leaders had accepted that they would not win in Gujarat and party's victory in Himachal Pradesh will boost morale of its workers.

"There was little impact of issues such as price rise and corruption," he said.

"In no hurry" to become CM, says Virbhadra
After steering Congress to power in Himachal Pradesh, its state chief Virbhadra Singh on Thursday said "he was in no hurry" to become the next Chief Minister and a final decision on the issue would be taken by party high command.

"The party had entrusted me the task of bringing it back to power in Himachal and AICC president Sonia Gandhi will now take the final decision on the CLP leader," he said.

When asked whether he would be chief minister for the sixth time, 78-year-old Singh said "he was in no hurry".

Singh was Chief Minister between 1983 and 85; 1985 and 1990; 1993 and 1998 and 2003 and 2007.

He, however, spoke about priorities of Congress government saying corruption charges against the BJP regime would be probed by a Special Investigation Team.

The BJP government targeted and implicated me in "false cases" and let loose political vendetta, he said adding, the CD case against him was a total "concoction".

In his previous term also, Dhumal had levelled "false charges" against me and justice in the matter was finally done by the High Court and Supreme Court, the Congress leader said.

He expressed his gratitude to the people and party chief Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for launching popular schemes and giving liberal financial assistance to Himachal through centrally sponsored schemes like MNREGA, NRHM, Sarv Shiksha Abhiyaan, Mid Day Meal scheme and ICDS programme.

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