Cong wins 4 of 6 seats in Himachal assembly bypolls, MLA strength reaches 38

Congress candidate Anuradha Rana celebrates with supporters after winning the Lahaul and Spiti bypoll, in Lahaul and Spiti, Tuesday, June 4, 2024.
Congress candidate Anuradha Rana celebrates with supporters after winning the Lahaul and Spiti bypoll, in Lahaul and Spiti, Tuesday, June 4, 2024.

Shimla | Four Congress turncoats, who recently joined the BJP in Himachal Pradesh, on Tuesday lost the by-elections from their respective assembly segments, the Election Commission figures showed.

With victory in four assembly segments, the strength of Congress MLAs has gone up to 38 in the house with an effective strength of 65. The result ensures that there is no immediate threat to the Congress government in the state for now.

The Congress won Sujanpur, Gagret, Kutlehar and Lahaul and Spiti assembly seats, while the BJP won from Dharamshala and Barsar, according to the EC.

BJP's Rajinder Rana was defeated by his old rival Ranjit Singh of Congress by a margin of 2,440 votes in the Sujanpur assembly by-election.

Rana is a Congress turncoat who had defeated former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal in the 2017 assembly polls and was the main target of Sukhu in the by-elections. While Rana had recently switched to the BJP, Singh, a retired captain, joined the Congress after Rana was given a BJP ticket for the Sujanpur bypoll.

Singh polled 29,529 votes against Rana's 27,089 votes, according to EC's website.

In a triangular contest in the Lahaul and Spiti by-election, Congress candidate Anuradha Rana defeated her nearest rival and Independent candidate Ram Lal Markanda by a margin of 1,960 votes.

Anuradha Rana, who is the first woman to have contested elections from Lahaul and Spiti in 52 years, became the second woman ever to win from the assembly segment.

She polled 9,414 votes against 7,454 votes received by Markanda, while BJP candidate Ravi Thakur stood third with 3,049 votes.

BJP's Sudhir Sharma, a former minister who was termed as "kingpin" of rebels by Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, won the assembly bypoll from Dharamshala constituency by a margin of 5,526 votes.

He secured 28,066 votes against 22,540 votes polled by his Congress rival Devinder Singh Jaggi. BJP rebel Rakesh Chowdhary who contested as an Independent from the seat got 10,770 votes.

Similarly, Congress rebel and BJP candidate from Barsar, Inder Dutt Lakhanpal, won by a margin of 2,125 votes. He got 33,088 votes against 30,961 votes polled by his Congress rival Subhash Chand.

BJP rebel Rakesh Kalia who contested on a Congress ticket defeated Congress rebel Chetanya Sharma from Gagret by a margin of 8,487 votes. Kalia polled 35,768 votes, while Chetanya Sharma got 27,281 votes.

BJP candidate Davinder Bhutto, one of the six Congress rebels, was defeated in Kutlehar by his Congress rival Vivek Sharma by 5,356 votes. Vivek Sharma polled 3,68,53 votes against 3,14,97 polled by Bhutto. A total of four candidates were in fray from this seat.

The bypolls in Himachal Pradesh were held on June 1, simultaneously with elections to the four Lok Sabha seats.

Six assembly seats -- Sujanpur, Dharamshala, Lahaul and Spiti, Barsar, Gagret and Kutlehar -- fell vacant following disqualification of Congress rebels for defying the whip to vote in favour of the Congress-led state government during the budget.

These rebels had voted for the BJP in Rajya Sabha polls on February 27 and later joined the BJP and contested the by-elections on the BJP ticket from their respective assembly segments.

As the BJP gave tickets to Congress rebels, two BJP turncoats also entered the fray as Congress candidates after switching to Congress.

The BJP rebels Rakesh Kalia and Ranjeet Singh who entered the fray as Congress candidates from Gagret and Sujanpur won the elections, while two other rebels Ram Lal Markanda and Rakesh Chowdhary who entered the fray as Independents from Lahaul and Spiti and Dharamshala constituencies, respectively, lost.

Winning the by-election was crucial for the ruling party for the stability of the state government which had 34 seats in the 68-member house after disqualification of six MLAs.

The by-election results are a setback for the BJP which had won the Rajya Sabha polls by triggering rebellion in the Congress with six MLAs voting against the official Congress candidate and also winning over the three Independents, who have since joined the BJP.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah had said the Congress government would not last long in the state and appealed to people to vote for BJP in the by-elections so that the 'lotus' blooms in Himachal as well.

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