Himachal Pradesh 2021: State achieves a vaccination first, BJP faces humiliation in bypolls

Significantly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose Mandi earlier this week to announce a slew of development projects for the state.

Jai Ram Thakur
"Sympathy will not yield poll wins for ever," CM Jai Ram Thakur later remarked. He also called the bad showing in bypolls an ''alert'' for the party before the next assembly elections. (Photo source: IE)

The BJP in Himachal Pradesh suffered a big loss of face in 2021. The bypolls in October delivered a 4-0 washout for the ruling party, which lost even in Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur’s home district Mandi.

Significantly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose Mandi earlier this week to announce a slew of development projects for the state. He had already congratulated Himachal Pradesh for becoming the first state in the country to fully vaccinate its entire adult population.

After the bypoll setback, the BJP will hard-sell achievements like these ahead of the Assembly elections that are likely around December next year.

Traditionally, the hill state alternates between the Congress and the BJP every assembly election, never returning the same party to power. And the October bypolls left the opposition party into believing that the pattern might will hold this time too.

A jubilant Congress called the results a semi-final victory after bagging the Mandi parliamentary seat as well as the three assembly seats of Arki, Fatehpur and Jubbal-Kotkhai. Earlier, two of these four seats were with the BJP.

This time in Jubbal-Kotkhai, BJP’s Neelam Seraik got just 2,644 votes and lost her security deposit. The party attributed its Mandi defeat to a sympathy vote for Pratibha Singh, the wife of six-time chief minister Virbhadra Singh.

The 87-year-old Congress stalwart died on July 8 due to post-Covid complications. The state government announced a three-day mourning and Rampur Bushahr, the seat of the erstwhile royal family, gave him a fitting farewell.

“Sympathy will not yield poll wins for ever,” CM Jai Ram Thakur later remarked. He also called the bad showing in bypolls an ”alert” for the party before the next assembly elections.

The Mandi Lok Sabha seat was won in 2014 and again in 2019 by BJP’s Ram Swaroop Sharma, who died in March. His body was found hanging from the ceiling at his Delhi home, in an apparent case of suicide.

Possibly with an eye on the polls a year later, the BJP government this month decided to implement a revised pay scale for two lakh state government employees with effect from January 2016. The decision, which is in line with the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations, will set the government back by Rs 4,000 crore every year.

The new development project inaugurated and announced by Modi during his December visit to Mandi are worth over Rs 11,500 crore. They include a 111-MW Sawra-Kuddu hydro-electric project on the Pabbar river in Shimla district.

A bright spot for the state this year was it being declared the ?first? to achieve 100 per cent double vaccination for its entire eligible population. The feat involved treks by teams of health workers to remote villages and, at least in one case, the use of a helicopter.

“The residents of Himachal have presented an imitable example in front of the entire country in the fight against Covid,” the PM tweeted. BJP president J P Nadda came to Bilaspur for an event to mark the milestone. He also inaugurated the Out Patient Department of the new All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) there. The hospital is expected to become fully functional by June 2022. Natural disasters claimed several lives in the state.

Tonnes of debris landed on a bus and other vehicles in a landslide on National Highway 5 in Kinnaur district in August. At least 28 people were killed. Seven people died after a flash flood in Tozing nullah in Lahaul-Spiti, a disaster triggered by heavy rains.

A dramatic video clip emerged of a stretch of a highway crumbling near Paonta Sahib in Sirmaur district as a mountain slope collapses. People watched in horror from a distance. But, miraculously, there were no casualties.

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