Dhumal elected leader of BJP legislature party

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Shimla, Dec 29: The newly-elected BJP MLAs in Himachal Pradesh met here and elected Prem Kumar Dhumal as the leader of the BJP legislature party on Saturday.

Party"s chief-ministerial candidate Dhumal is expected to meet State Governor VS Kokje to stake claim to form the next government in the state. Dhumal, who is likely to take the oath of office on Sunday, will become state"s chief minister for the second time. He won from Bamsan in Hamirpur district, defeating Congress candidate Col (R) BC Lagwal by 26,000 votes. After winning nearly two-third seats in Gujarat earlier this week, the BJP scored a comfortable victory yesterday in Himachal Pradesh, bagging 41 seats in the 68-member Assembly.

The party has returned to power in the state after a gap of five years. This was its best performance in the state, with having increased its vote share by nearly 12 per cent.

On the other hand, the Congress won 23 seats and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) won one seat. Independents bagged the remaining three seats.

Buoyed by the results in the two states, BJP leaders warned that it showed that the Congress was bound to lose Lok Sabha elections in 2009. But, the Congress downplayed its defeat in Himachal Pradesh, citing “anti-incumbency" as the single largest factor that went against it.

Incumbent Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh retained Rohru in Shimla District winning by a margin of 14,000 votes.

The term of the 68-member State Assembly is to end on March 9, 2008.


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