Congress surges in Himachal Pradesh, likely to form govt
Himachal Pradesh has not returned any incumbent government to power in the last nearly four decades
SHIMLA: The Congress has surged ahead of the BJP leading on 38 out of the 68 seats while the ruling party has won one seat and is ahead on 26, according to early trends from Himachal Pradesh where counting of votes cast in the assembly polls is in progress.
Independent candidates were ahead on three seats while the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which had fielded candidates on 67 seats, is yet to open its account, according to the Election Commission.
The result of one seat of Sundernagar in Mandi district has been declared where BJP's Rakesh Jamwal, who is the sitting MLA, has defeated his nearest Congress rival by a margin of 8,125 votes.
Candidates who are leading include Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur from Seraj, Ministers Bikram Singh (Jaswant Paragpur) and Speaker and BJP leader Vipin Singh Parmar (Sullah).
The chief minister has attained a healthy lead of more than 31,000 votes over his nearest Congress rival Chet Ram.
Ministers Ram Lal Markanda (Lahaul Spiti), Govind Sih Thakur (Manali) and Suresh Bhardwaj (Kasumpti), Rajinder Garg (Ghumarwin), Rajiv Saizal (Kasauli), Rakesh Pathania (Fatehpur) and Sarveen Chaudhary (Shahpur) too are leading.
BJP's Puran Chand (Darang) is ahead of his rival while former minister Narender Bragata's son Chetan Bragata of the BJP (Jubbal Kotkhai) is trailing. Former Union minister Sukh Ram's son Anil Sharma (Mandi Sadar) is leading from his seat.
Congress leader Mukesh Agnihotri, who is the leader of opposition in the state assembly, is leading from Haroli, while former state Congress chief Kuldeep Rathore (Theog), former minister Sudhir Sharma (Dharamsala), and Dhani Ram Shandil (Solan) too are ahead.
Others who are leading include Congress' Jagat Singh Negi from Kinnaur, Vikramaditya Singh, son of late chief minister Virbhadra Singh, from Shimla Rural, and Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu from Naudan.
Hoshiyar Singh from Dehra and K L Thakur from Nalagarh are among the Independents who are leading.
Senior Congress leader and sitting MLA Asha Kumari was trailing from Dalhousie while Congress' Kaul Singh was trailing from Darang.
The chief minister and Himachal Pradesh Congress president Pratibha Singh have maintained that their parties would get full majority with over 40 out of the 68 seats.
Pratibha Singh, who is the wife of former chief minister late Virbhadra Singh, told reporters, "We are confident that results will be in favour of the Congress and we will form the government".
Himachal Pradesh BJP chief Suresh Kashyap too exuded confidence of retaining power in the state.
"We are confident of winning the election. The BJP will retain power in the state and break the tradition," Kashyap said referring to the nearly four-decade trend in Himachal Pradesh, where the BJP and the Congress alternate in power every assembly election.
The counting of votes for the 68-member assembly began at 8 am where the ruling BJP is hoping to retain power.
Himachal Pradesh has not returned any incumbent government to power in the last nearly four decades.
For the opposition Congress, however, a victory in Himachal is much-needed for its revival, as it has seen a spate of electoral losses in the last few years.
About 76.44 per cent of voters had exercised their franchise in the assembly polls held on November 12. A total of 412 candidates, including 24 women and 99 independents, are in the fray.