Congress emerged victorious in the 2022 Himachal Pradesh Assembly Elections as the state maintained its tradition of ousting the ruling government in every election. Congress won 40 out of the total 68 seats, with many contenders winning by a narrow margin, while BJP secured 26 seats and independent candidates bagged three seats. In terms of voter share, Congress and BJP received 43.9% and 43%, respectively.
The winds of change were evident when Congress won all four seats in the 2021 bypolls. However, many believed the BJP had a good chance because the Congress was in disarray at the Center and had lost its mascot, six-time chief minister Virbhadra Singh, in 2021. With this win, Congress now holds the majority government in three states - Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh.
Highest Voter Turnout
According to the Election Commission of India, the voter turnout in Himachal Pradesh during the Assembly election on November 12 was the highest, at 75.6 per cent. Booths such as Chasak Bhatori in Bharmaur Assembly Constituency in Chamba recorded a turnout of 75.26 per cent despite freezing weather and hurdles such as a walking distance of 14 km at the height of 11,948 feet. At the world's highest polling place at 15,265 feet, Tashigang, the state saw 100 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots despite adverse weather conditions.
Moreover, the elections saw women voters with a 4.5 per cent higher turnout than men voters. It is also approximately 2 per cent higher than the total voter turnout of the state—72.4 per cent of men exercised their right to vote, compared to 76.8 per cent of women.
Intriguingly, women have outvoted men in state elections since 1998, and the pattern has persisted for the last five elections. In 1998, women made up 72.2 per cent of voters, while men made up 71.23 per cent; in 2003, they made up 75.92 per cent; in 2007, they made up 74.10 per cent; in 2012, they made up 76.20 per cent; and in 2017, they made up 77.98 per cent. However, in fifteen elections since 1967, only 43 women have been elected to state assemblies. According to The Indian Express, in the new 68-member Himachal Pradesh Assembly, Reena Kashyap of the BJP is the only elected MLA who defeated Dayal Pyari of the Congress in the Pachhad election.
Political Hegemony Continues
Himachal Pradesh hasn't supported an incumbent government for the past 37 years, causing a constant tussle between Congress and the BJP to keep switching seats every 5 years. The outgoing Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur's slogan - 'Riwaz Badlega (Tradition will change) - during the 2022 elections couldn't cause a change, and Himachal Pradesh again reversed its decision.
In 1985, the Congress won with an overwhelming majority of 58 seats in the assembly polls. However, the BJP reversed this in the 1990 elections, winning 46 seats while cutting the Congress to a meagre 9. With 52 seats, the grand old party was able to retake the throne in 1993, and since then, the gap between the two has shrunk, resulting in this power shift every 5 years.
Congress has won more seats than the BJP over the years. However, the saffron party has made steady progress in narrowing this gap. Even in the recent elections, Congress defeated the BJP by just 37,974 more votes. The voter gap share between the two parties is also the lowest since 1951.
According to Hindustan Times, a meeting of the newly elected MLAs to choose their leader will take place in Shimla. Pratibha Singh, the head of the Congress's unit in Himachal Pradesh, Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, former state president, and Mukesh Agnihotri, the departing leader of the Congress Legislature Party, are the front-runners for the position of chief minister.