The Bharatiya Janata Party had reason to be doubly happy after its electoral victory in the Himachal Pradesh assembly polls. One, it returned to power after five years and, secondly, it got a near two-thirds majority. But there is one man who has left the BJP leadership with a bad taste in the mouth.
Rajinder Rana, the Congress candidate from the Sujanpur assembly constituency, defeated the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal, forcing the saffron party to hunt for a new face.
“I have done a lot of social work in the Sujanpur constituency in the past 15 years. The people of this constituency have blessed me with this responsibility despite the BJP candidate being the party’s CM face. I have a personal equation with the people of this constituency. I am there with them for all their happy and sad occasions,” Rana told in an interview here after his surprise victory over two-time Chief Minister Dhumal.
“When Dhumal’s name was announced for this seat, I had declared that he will lose. Some people from his side had approached me before the election but I had told them to convey to him (Dhumal) not to contest from Sujanpur. I knew that the fight would be difficult. But I knew that I had done good work here — and it paid off,” said Rana, who was once Dhumal’s protege but fell out with him in 2009.
Now referred to as the “Giant Killer of Sujanpur”, Rana, 51, defeated Dhumal, 73, by 1,919 votes, causing a political upheaval in the BJP and Himachal politics after the poll results were declared on Monday. Rana’s victory is all the more important because he managed it at a time when the BJP rode a wave in Himachal elections and won 44 seats in the 68-member house.
“The BJP central leadership got trapped in an electoral miscalculation. They announced Dhumal as the chief ministerial face and fielded him from Sujanpur, thinking that the BJP will win all five seats in Hamirpur district as Dhumal was a well-known leader and the incoming Chief Minister. That gamble misfired. The BJP’s internal surveys had shown that defeating me here was going to be difficult,” said Rana, a millionaire who is known to contribute from his personal funds to people in the constituency for marriages of girls from poor backgrounds and giving scholarships to students.
Rana had remained with Dhumal from 2003 to 2009. They fell apart in 2009. Rana, who was denied a BJP ticket from Sujanpur, contested as an independent in the 2012 assembly polls and won by a big margin of over 14,000 votes. The BJP finished third in that election.
Despite his victory, Rana does not see any political rivalry with Dhumal.
“There is nothing like political rivalry in my mind. My aim is to serve the people and development of the constituency. In the past five years, (Chief Minister) Virbhadra Singh (Congress) supported me greatly and we did a lot of work in Sujanpur. Even now, the new BJP government should help in the development of this constituency,” Rana said.
Dhumal was announced as the chief ministerial face by the BJP quite late and Rana did not agree with reports that his campaign was sabotaged by his own party leadership.
“In this seat, it was a contest between naam (name) and kaam (work). I had conveyed to Dhumal not to get into hot water here. It is a victory of the people of this constituency,” said Rana, who has been politically catapulted in the Congress by defeating Dhumal.