Crossing the halfway mark, the Congress on Thursday surged ahead of the ruling BJP by leading on 38 out of the 68 Himachal Pradesh Assembly seats while the ruling party was leading on 21 and winning four seats. The Congress won two seats till 2 p.m.
“We will form a government with a full majority…She (Pratibha Singh) is one of the contenders for the CM post,” said Congress leader Vikramaditya Singh, who retained his Shimla (Rural) seat. He is the son of six-time chief minister and veteran leader late Virbhadra Singh.
However, state party chief Pratibha Singh has not contested the poll.
Himachal Pradesh has not returned any incumbent government to power in the last nearly four decades.
The ruling BJP was leading in 33 seats in the initial count of votes, but gradually slid.
The independents were leading in three constituencies, all BJP rebels.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, 57, won from his stronghold Seraj in Mandi district. Congress’ prominent leaders — Mukesh Agnihotri, 60, and Sukhvinder Sukhu, 58, were leading from Haroli and Nadaun seats respectively.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which was in the fray for the first time in the Assembly polls, had been missing from the state well ahead of the polling with its leaders focusing on strengthening its vote bank in Gujarat.
It had fielded candidates on 67 seats and is yet to open its account.
BJP’s Rakesh Jamwal has retained his Sundernagar seat in Mandi district by defeating his nearest Congress rival by a margin of 8,125 votes.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur won by a record margin of 20,425 votes (76.97 per cent votes) from Seraj in Mandi district. This is the highest ever winning margin by any Chief Minister in the state. He polled 33,256 votes.
The BJP is leading in nine of the 10 segments in Mandi district. In the last Assembly polls, the BJP had won all nine seats.
BJP’s Ranbir Singh won the Nurpur seat, defeating nearest rival and Congress candidate Ajay Mahajan by 18,752 votes.
Celebrations by the Congressmen began in the state capital by distributing sweets.
“The Congress is going to form a government with full majority,” said leader Sukhvinder Sukhu, who is leading in his seat Nadaun in Hamirpur district.
Sensing defeat, the BJP has deputed national general secretary Vinod Tawde to Shimla to watch the developments and lead parleys with rebels that include K.L. Thakur in Nalagarh and Hoshiar Singh in Dehra.