BSP draws a blank, but eats into Cong votes

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi, Dec 28 | Updated: Dec 29 2007, 07:12am hrs
An anti-incumbency wave may have been one of the key reasons for the defeat of Virbhadra Singh government in Himachal Pradesh, but the Congress performance in the state got hit further by another factor-the presence of BSP candidates.

The BSP, which polled 6% of the total votes and won one seat in the state, may have made a difference to the Congress in at least ten constituencies, where they might have pulled through in a straight contest. The party, led by former Congress leader and MLA Vijay Singh Mankotia, took away a chunk of the dalit votes, which were traditionally with the Congress.

The BSP has been trying to expand its base in the state, which has 24.7% dalit population, with a very focused campaign. We are satisfied with the results. This election was just a quarterly examination for us. But we did it well, BSP national leader and Rajya Sabha MP Anbeth Rajan told FE. We did put a good fight. We have increased our vote share, Rajan claimed. The winner for BSP was Sanjay Chaudhary who contested at Kangra Assembly constituency.

Though Mankotia himself lost the elections from Dharamsala, it was he who launched the campaign against present chief minister and Congress leader Virbhadra Singh releasing a CD levelling corruption charges against him and his wife. Later the principal Opposition party BJP also joined the issue. The BSP also used the discontent within the Congress camp against chief minister Virbhadra Singh. When Mankotia came out of the Congress, he was made the convener of the state BSP and was named as the chief ministerial candidate of the party.

Besides Mankotia, two former Congress leaders and ministers Vijay Kumar Joshi, Kewal Singh Pathiana and a former Congress MLA Haridutt Sharma also contested on the BSP ticket.