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Himachal Pradesh

Modi poised for huge win in Gujarat, Congress wrests Himachal from BJP

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi appeared set for a third straight term in office as the Bharatiya Janata Party headed towards a huge win in the state but it lost Himachal Pradesh to the Congress as counting of votes progressed in the Assembly elections in both States today.

 
Counting begins in Gujarat, BJP secures early lead

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi appeared set for a third straight term in office as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headed towards a huge win in the state but it lost Himachal Pradesh to the Congress as counting of votes progressed in the Assembly elections in both states today.

As results and counting trends became available for all the 182 seats in the Gujarat Assembly, the BJP had won 52 and was leading in 65 others, making for a total of 117 seats, the same number that it has in the outgoing house.
 
The Congress had won 27 seats and was leading in 32 others. The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), an ally of the Congress, had won two seats while the Janata Dal (United), an ally of the BJP, was leading in one constituency. Other parties were ahead in three seats.
 
Adding to the Congress' misery in Gujarat, its state unit chief Arjun Modhwadia and Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Shaktisinh Gohil lost their seats.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, the ruling BJP conceded defeat as the Congress won 34 seats in the 68-member Assembly and was leading in two others. The BJP had won 23 and was ahead in another three, while others had won four and were leading in two more.
 
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal admitted his party had lost and congratulated the winners. He said the reasons for the BJP's defeat, despite his government's good record of governance, would be analysed at party fora in due course.
 
In Gujarat, Mr Modi retained his own seat, Maninagar, bagging 120440 votes against 34097 secured by his nearest rival, Shweta Bhatt, wife of suspended Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Sanjiv Bhatt.
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The controversial former Minister of State for Home, Mr Amit Shah of the BJP, won from Naranpura, garnering 103988 votes against the 40653 secured by his rival Jitubhai B Patel of the Congress.
 
In the Ellis Bridge constituency in Ahmedabad, Ms Jagruti Pandya, widow of assassinated former Minister of State for Home Haren Pandya, ended up in the third place. Ms Pandya, a candidate of the Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) floated by former Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, could muster only 9075 votes against Mr Raesh Shah of BJP, who got 106631 votes. Mr Kamleshkumar Shah of the Congress got 29959 votes.
 
Mr Modhwadia lost in Porbandar, getting only 60458 votes against the 77604 votes secured by Mr Babubhai Bokhiria of the BJP. Mr Gohil lost from Bhavnagar (Rural) to Mr Purshottam Solanki of the BJP. Mr Solanki got 83980 votes as against 65426 secured by Mr Gohil.
 
The BJP had won 117 seats in the Gujarat Assembly in the last elections in 2007, while the Congress had 59 seats.
 
Counting of votes began in both states at 0800 hours today and all the results are expected by this evening.
 
Elections to the 182-member Gujarat assembly were held in two phases on December 13 and 17, when a record 71.3 per cent of the 38 million voters had exercised their franchise.
 
Polling for the 68 seats in the Himachal Pradesh assembly was held in a single phase on November 4, and about 74.7 per cent of the 4.60 million voters had cast their votes.
 
The supporters of Mr Modi, who has been in office since 2001, are hoping that, with yet another big win, he would be propelled to the centrestage of national politics and become the BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
 
Exit polls had predicted a huge win for Mr Modi again this year, while they had given a slight edge in a close contest in Himachal Pradesh.
 
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Research in Horticulture & Forestry of special significance to farmers in mountainous regions: Kovind

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Research in horticulture and forestry has a special significance for farmers in mountainous regions such as in Himachal Pradesh and, over the past three decades, the Dr Y S Parmar University has contributed significantly to advancements in the field, President Ram Nath Kovind said today.
 
Addressing the 9th convocation of the University, the President noted that it has the distinction of being the first Horticultural University in Asia. He congratulated students of the University for choosing to pursue their education in the agricultural sector.
 
This sector, he is said, is associated with the prosperity of farmers, the rural community and the entire country. He said he considered each student and teacher of this University to be a technically-equipped friend and partner of the farmers of Himachal Pradesh as well as other parts of the country.
 
Mr Kovind said the goal of education should not be limited to simply getting a job. They can start their own enterprises by using their skills and learning. There is immense potential in the field of fruit and vegetable processing.
 
With their knowledge and enterprise, graduates of the University could help consumers in the country and abroad get better food products and help farmers get better value for their produce. 
 
He urged the students to take advantage of various schemes and initiatives of the Union and state governments to set up their businesses in the agriculture sector.
 
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14 killed in two road accidents in Himachal Pradesh

 
14 die in two road accidents in Himachal Pradesh
 
 
Fourteen people were killed and 15 injured in two separate road accidents in Himachal Pradesh's Shimla and Sirmaur districts on Sunday.
 
Eight people were killed and 15 injured when a bus skidded off the road and rolled down the hill in Sirmaur district.
 
The bus was on its way from Manva to Solan town when the accident occurred near the Nai Neti panchayat, around 25 km from Rajgarh town.
 
Most of the injured were admitted to the Regional Hospital in Solan.
 
Sirmaur Deputy Commissioner Lalit Jain told IANS the rescue operation was over. Most of the victims were from Rajgarh area. He said the cause of the accident was yet to be ascertained.
 
In another accident, all six occupants of a car were killed on the spot when it fell into a 300-foot deep gorge near Chhaila on the Theog-Hatkoti road, 42 km from Shimla.
 
Witnesses told police that the car driver probably lost control over the vehicle when it was descending a steep gradient.
 
The administration had a tough time extricating the victims of both the accidents from the badly mangled vehicles.
 
People in the area began rescue operations even before authorities reached the spot.
 
IANS
 
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Kasauli: Second firing victim succumbs to injuries

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Another victim of firing purportedly by a guest house owner during a demolition drive in the tourist resort Kasauli in Himachal Pradesh succumbed to his injuries on Sunday after battling for life for 12 days, police said.
 
Earlier, Assistant Town Planner Shaila Bala Sharma, 51, was shot dead by Narayani Guest House owner Vijay Singh during the demolition drive in Solan district.
 
Public Works Department employee Gulab Singh got bullet injuries when Vijay Singh fired at employees deployed to raze illegal constructions in the area on May 1.
 
He was referred to the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh where he died.
 
The accused was arrested from Mathura in Uttar Pradesh two days after the crime. He is on police remand.
 
Vijay Singh fired at officials when they insisted on executing the apex court order to demolish illegal constructions at his guest house.
 
The apex court, which ordered the demolition of illegal constructions in 13 hotels and resorts in Kasauli area, took suo motu cognizance of the firing incident.
 
On May 9, the court asked the state government to provide it the names and designations of officers who were posted in Kasauli when unauthorized constructions were carried out.
 
A bench of Justice Madan Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta also sought a report from the state on specific steps taken to ensure that no uauthorized construction was being carried out in other parts of the state.
 
During the hearing, the bench told the Advocate General of Himachal Pradesh: "Unless you take action and remove four-five people from service, nothing will fall in line."
 
IANS
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Seven killed as bus rolls down hill in Himachal

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At least seven persons were killed and 12 injured when a bus skidded off the road and rolled down the hill in Sirmaur district in Himachal Pradesh on Sunday, an official said.
 
The private bus was on its way from Manva to Solan town when the accident occurred near the Nai Neti panchayat, around 25 km from Rajgarh town.
 
Most of the injured have been admitted to the Regional Hospital in Solan, about 55 km from the state capital.
 
Sirmaur Deputy Commissioner Lalit Jain told IANS the rescue operation was over. Most of the victims were from Rajgarh area.
 
He said the cause of the accident was yet to be ascertained.
 
Eyewitnesses said the administration had a tough time extricating the victims from the badly mangled bus.
 
People in the area began rescue operations even before authorities reached the spot.
 
IANS
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Himachal may get more thundershowers next week

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Himachal Pradesh may get more thundershowers next week as the weather bureau here on Friday predicted that western disturbances will be active once again in the region.
 
"Light to moderate rain and thundershowers are likely to occur at some places in the state between May 14 and 15 with the western disturbances affecting the Western Himalayas," Manmohan Singh, the meteorological department director, told IANS.
 
Western disturbances are a storm system originating from the Mediterranean Sea and moving across the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.
 
Tourist towns of Shimla, Narkanda, Kufri, Kalpa, Kasauli, Chamba, Dharamsala, Palampur and Manali might get rains in the next few days.
 
"High-altitude areas of Lahaul and Spiti, Chamba, Kullu and Kinnaur districts may experience moderate snow," a Met official said.
 
There has been no rain or snowfall across the state in the past 24 hours since Thursday.
 
Shimla recorded a low of 15.5 degrees Celsius, a rise from Thursday's 12.5 degrees, while it was 3.3 degrees in Keylong, 7.6 degrees in Kalpa, 14.8 degrees in Dharamsala and 15.5 degrees in Dalhousie.
 
A day earlier, the state capital here saw a high of 23.5 degrees Celsius.
 
IANS
 
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Adverse weather: Himachal advises against travelling to higher reaches

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The Himachal Pradesh government on Tuesday advised locals and tourists not to travel towards the higher reaches as moderate snowfall and rains continued across the state.
 
An advisory was issued to avoid travelling to the high hills of Kullu, Sirmaur, Chamba, Lahaul and Spiti and Kinnaur districts as chances of snow and rain are high over the next 24 hours, a government spokesperson told IANS here on Tuesday morning.
 
Kullu Deputy Commissioner Yunus Khan told IANS that tourists and locals bound for the Rohtang Pass, some 52 km from Manali, were not allowed to go beyond Marhi, due to continuous snowfall that has resulted in snapping of road links leading to the pass.
 
"Even the locals have been advised not to go close to the rivers and water channels and check weather conditions before travelling towards the Jalori Pass also," he said, adding "schools were closed for a day (Tuesday)".
 
Officials said state transport buses in Lahaul Valley in Lahaul-Spiti district have been temporarily suspended.
 
According to the Met Office in Shimla, heavy rainfall accompanied by thunderstorms and strong winds are likely at some places in the state till Thursday.
 
Kalpa in Kinnaur district received 27 mm rain till Tuesday morning, while Keylong in Lahaul-Spiti district saw 5 cm of snow.
 
However, Shimla experienced only 3.7 mm, while Manali, Dharamsala and Dalhousie towns received 18.6 mm, 8.2 mm and 13 mm of rain, respectively.
 
Shimla recorded a minimum of 9.8 degrees Celsius, while it was 2.4 degrees in Kalpa, 13.8 degrees in Dharamsala, 5.4 degrees in Manali and 7.8 degrees in Dalhousie.
 
IANS
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Demolitions on in Kasauli, murder accused held, top police official shifted

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Even as illegal constructions in hotels and resorts in Himachal Pradesh's Kasauli area continued to be razed on Thursday, a hotelier accused of fatally shooting a woman officer two days ago was arrested from Uttar Pradesh, officials said.
 
Head also started rolling with the state government late in the evening transferring the district's top police official.
 
On May 1, Assistant Town Planner Shaila Bala Sharma was shot dead by Narayani Guest House owner Vijay Singh during the Supreme Court-ordered demolition drive.
 
In a joint operation, a state police team, which was coordinating with Delhi Police, arrested him from Mathura town.
 
Police officials said the accused, who was not using his mobile phone since the murder, had shaved off his moustache to conceal his identity. He is being brought to Kasauli.
 
Expressing anguish over the delay in the arrest of the accused, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur earlier told reporters in New Delhi: "I am in regular touch with top police officials. As per my information, he's likely to be arrested today (Thursday) or tomorrow (Friday)."
 
Police officials said Vijay Singh shot dead the official when she insisted on executing the apex court order to demolish illegal constructions at his guest house.
 
After the crime, Vijay Singh, a Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board employee who was on leave for three weeks, disappeared into a nearby forest.
 
Admitting negligence in the matter, Deputy Commissioner Vinod Kumar said: "It was our responsibility to carry out the demolitions. It was a lapse on part of the district administration. We had asked the demolition teams to exercise restraint."
 
But the demolitions would continue, he added.
 
On Thursday, the Supreme Court ordered the Himachal government to file an affidavit by May 9, the next date of hearing, detailing the progress in the murder probe.
 
A bench headed by Justice Madan B. Lokur said the affidavit should contain details of action taken to demolish illegal constructions and steps to prevent unauthorised constructions in future.
 
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Taking suo motu cognisance of the official's killing, the Supreme Court a day earlier pulled up the state authorities for failure to ensure the safety of officers implementing its orders.
 
The apex court on April 17 ordered the demolition of illegal constructions, saying the life of people cannot be endangered for making money.
 
The Congress blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party government for what it said was "deteriorating law and order" in the hill state.
 
"Even two days after the crime, the state has failed to fix responsibility on officials responsible for the lapses that led to the death of a government employee," Congress leader Mukesh Agnihotri told IANS.
 
After rap from the apex court over negligence in handling of the demolitions, the government transferred Solan Superintendent of Police Mohit Chawla and his deputy Ramesh Sharma to police headquarters.
 
Additional Superintendent Shiv Kumar was given the additional charge of the Superintendent of Police, while Ajay Rana is the new Deputy Superintendent of Police.
 
The government also decided to confer Himachal Gaurav Purskar on the Assistant Town Planner.
 
A government spokesman said a decision in this regard was taken at a high-level meeting held here to review the law and order situation.
 
He said the government also decided to give an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh to her family who would be entitled for salary for her remaining service period.
 
IANS
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Demolition of illegal constructions in Kasauli continues, two days after killing of official

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Demolition of 13 illegal constructions at hotels and resorts in the picturesque tourist resort of Kasauli in Himachal Pradesh, where a woman town planner was shot dead by a hotel owner two days ago, continued on Thursday amidst high security an official said.
 
Even two days after Assistant Town Planner Shaila Bala Sharma was shot dead during the Supreme Court-ordered demolition drive, police have failed to arrest the accused.
 
"Special teams have been constituted to arrest the accused. A cash reward has been announced for providing information that leads to his arrest," Superintendent of Police Mohit Chawla told reporters.
 
He said there was possibility that accused Vijay Singh, who shot dead Sharma on Tuesday, might have fled to neighbouring Punjab after committing the crime. "We are sure to nab him soon," he added.
 
After firing the shots, the accused, a Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board Limited employee, disappeared into the forest nearby.
 
Police officials said Singh shot dead the town planner when she insisted on executing the court's order to demolish the illegal constructions in his Narayani Guest House.
 
He allegedly fired three rounds, killing her on the spot. Labourer Gulab Singh received a gunshot injury in the abdomen.
 
She was cremated at her native place in Mandi district on Wednesday.
 
The main opposition Congress has blamed the four-month-old Jai Ram Thakur-led Bharatiya Janata Party government in the state for the deteriorating law and order situation in the state.
 
"Even after two days of the crime, the state has failed to fix responsibility on officials responsible for the lapses that led to the death of a government employee," Congress leader Mukesh Agnihotri told IANS.
 
He said the entire top government machinery on the day of the crime was busy in a Chief Minister's function in the district and deliberately ignored to provide sufficient security to prevent any untoward incident during the demolition drive.
 
A member of the demolition team told the police that policemen, who were unarmed, fled from the crime scene after the town planner was shot dead.
 
The Supreme Court on Wednesday took suo motu cognisance of her killing when she had gone to supervise the demolition of unauthorised constructions.
 
Chief Minister Thakur on Wednesday said a status report will be submitted in the apex court on Thursday.
 
"It's a sad incident. We will submit a status report in the (Supreme Court) tomorrow," Thakur told reporters in New Delhi.
 
The Divisional Commissioner of Shimla would investigate the killing of the town planner, he added.
 
The apex court on April 17 ordered the demolition of illegal constructions, saying the life of people cannot be endangered for making money.
 
The court observed that the illegal constructions had put the city in danger, causing landslides, and ordered their demolition.
 
IANS
 
 
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SC takes cognizance of killing of woman official in Himachal Pradesh

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday took suo motu cognizance of the killing of the Assistant Town Planner at Kasauli in Himachal Pradesh when she had gone to supervise the demolition of unauthorized construction at 13 guest houses and resorts.
 
Describing the killing of Shaila Bala Sharma as "extremely serious", the bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta directed that the matter be placed before Chief Justice Dipak Misra for its listing before an appropriate bench.
 
Justice Lokur and Justice Gupta had directed the demolition of illegal structures in guest houses and resorts.
 
IANS
 
 
 
 
 
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Woman official shot dead during demolition drive in Himachal Pradesh

 
Woman officer killed by hotel owner during demolition drive
 
 
A woman Assistant Town and Country Planner was shot dead and a labourer injured on Tuesday in Himachal Pradesh's Solan district by a guest house owner over the demolition of an illegal structure, police said.
 
Narayani Guest House owner Vijay Kumar allegedly fired two rounds in the air as employees began the demolition drive in Dharampur area following Supreme Court orders.
 
A stray bullet hit Shail Bala, killing her on the spot, a police official told IANS. Labourer Gulab Singh received a gunshot injury in the abdomen.
 
Sanjay Negi, a Sub-Divisional Officer of the Electricity Department, had a narrow escape.
 
The district administration officials were removing illegal structures in 13 hotels and resorts in Kasauli area when the crime was committed.
 
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur mourned the official's killing and said the culprit would be arrested soon and acted against as per the law. "The law and order will be maintained at all costs in the state."
 
The Supreme Court on April 17 ordered the demolition of illegal constructions at several hotels and resorts, saying the life of people cannot be endangered for making money.
 
The court observed that the illegal constructions had put the city in danger, causing landslides, and ordered the demolition of such constructions.
 
IANS
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27 schoolchildren among 30 killed in bus mishap in Himachal Pradesh

Thirty people, including 27 students, were killed on Monday when a private school bus fell into a gorge in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, police said.

Locals rescuing students stuck inside a school bus that fell into a gorge near Malkwal area of Nurpur in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, on April 9, 2018. (Photo: IANS)
Locals rescuing students stuck inside a school bus that fell into a gorge near Malkwal area of Nurpur in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, on April 9, 2018. (Photo: IANS)
Thirty people, including 27 students, were killed on Monday when a private school bus fell into a gorge in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, police said.
 
Superintendent of Police Santosh Patyal said all the killed students were in the age of 10 to 12, while the bus driver and two women teachers were among the victims.
 
Local villagers had begun rescue operation even before officials could reach the spot, eyewitnesses said.
 
Around 45 students of Wazir Ram Singh Pathania Memorial Public School were returning home when the bus skidded off road and fell into the 100-feet deep gorge near Gurchal village on the Nurpur-Chamba road, some 300 km from the state capital.
 
Teams of local administration and the National Disaster Response Force were involved in the rescue and faced tough time in pulling out the victims from the mangled bus.
 
Thirteen of the injured were referred to hospitals in Pathankot in Punjab. One of them died in a hospital, while 12 students were admitted with critical injuries.
 
The rescue operation was almost over, said an official.
 
"Prima facie, negligent driving and over-speeding are the main reasons for the accident," he added.
 
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, Governor Acharya Devvrat and Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda condoled the deaths.
 
A magisterial inquiry has been ordered.
 
The government has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 500,000 to the next of kin of each of those killed and free treatment to those injured.
 
Food and Civil Supplies Minister Kishan Kapoor along with local legislator Rakesh Pathania and Deputy Commissioner Sandeep Kumar reached the spot to supervise rescue and relief operation.
 
IANS
 
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Cabinet approves setting up of new AIIMS at Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh

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The Union Cabinet today gave its approval for establishment of a new All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) at Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh under the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY). 
 
The cost of the project is Rs. 1351 crore and it will be completed in a period of 48 months with a pre-construction phase of 12 months, construction phase of 30 months and stabilization and commissioning phase of six months, an official press release said.
 
The Institution will consist of a hospital with a capacity of 750 beds and trauma center facilities. It will have a medical college with an intake of 100 MBBS students per year, a nursing college with an intake of 60 B.Sc. (Nursing) students per year, residential complexes and allied facilities and services, broadly on the pattern of AIIMS, New Delhi.
 
The hospital will have 20 speciality and super-speciality departments including 15 operation theatres. It will also have an AYUSH department with 30 beds for providing treatment facilities in traditional systems of medicine, the release said.
 
Under this scheme, AIIMS have been established in Bhubaneshwar, Bhopal, Raipur, Jodhpur, Rishikesh and Patna while work of AIIMS Rae Bareli is in progress. Also, three AIIMS in Nagpur (Maharashtra), Kalyani (West Bengal) and Mangalagiri in Guntur (Andhra Pradesh) have been sanctioned in 2015, two AIIMS have been sanctioned at Bathinda and Gorakhpur in 2016 and an AIIMS in Kamrup (Assam).
 
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BJP's Jai Ram Thakur sworn in as new Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh

 
Jai Ram Thakur takes oath as 14th CM of Himachal Pradesh
Five-time legislator Jai Ram Thakur of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh at the head of a 12-member Council of Ministers.
 
Mr. Thakur, 52, and the 11 other Ministers were administered the oaths of office and secrecy by Governor Acharya Devvrat at a ceremony at the historic Ridge Ground here.
 
The Ministers who were sworn in are Suresh Bhardwaj, Anil Sharma, Govind Thakur, Mahender Singh, Sarveen Chaudhary, Ram Lal Markandaye, Vipin Parmar, Rajeev Saijal, Bikram Thakur, Kishan Kapoor and Virender Kanwar.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah, Union Ministers and Chief Ministers of several BJP-ruled States were present on the occasion.
 
Mr. Thakur's family, including his 80-year-old mother, and hundreds of BJP workers and others were also present.
 
Mr. Thakur has become the 14th Chief Minister of the State, though only the sixth person to hold the position because some of the previous Chief Ministers have served multiple terms.
 
He has succeeded Mr. Virbhadra Singh, 83, a veteran Congress leader, who has had five terms as Chief Minister. The BJP had named two-time Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, 73, as its chief ministerial candidate, but he ended up losing the elections, in which polling was held on November 9 and votes were counted on December 18.
 
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Power has alternated between the Congress and the BJP in Himachal Pradesh in recent decades. In the elections this time, the BJP wrested power from the Congress by winning 44 seats in the 68-member State Legislative Assembly. The Congress ended up with just 21 seats, while the Communist Party of India (Marxist) got one and two seats went to independent candidates.
 
Mr. Thakur was elected as the leader of the BJP Legislature Party here at a meeting of the party's newly elected legislators on December 24.
 
Born on January 6, 1965, Mr. Thakur has an M. A. from Punjab University. He has been a member of the state legislative assembly since 1998 and had served as Minister of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj in the Prem Kumar Dhumal government during 2007-12.
 
He was active in the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the BJP, during the 1980s and became the president of the State BJP Yuva Morcha during 1993-95. He was president of the state BJP during 2006-09.
 
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BJP retains Gujarat with reduced numbers, wrests HP from Congress

The BJP on Monday extended its 22-year reign in Gujarat for another term and wrested power from the Congress in Himachal Pradesh as counting of votes progressed in the crucial elections to the legislative assemblies of the two states, the results of which are expected to have a huge bearing on the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

 
BJP workers celebrate as party heads for wins in Gujarat, HP
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today extended its 22-year reign in Gujarat for another term and wrested power from the Congress in Himachal Pradesh as counting of votes progressed in the crucial elections to the legislative assemblies of the two states, the results of which are expected to have a huge bearing on the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
 
In Gujarat, the BJP ended up with 99 seats in the 182-member assembly, lower than the 115 seats it had won in the last elections in 2012 and the 111 seats that the mean of alll exit polls had given it and much below the party's oft-repeated claim through the campaign that it would win 150 seats.
 
The Congress finished with 77 seats, and drew satisfaction from the fact that it had significantly improved its tally from 61 in 2012 and more than the 70 seats that the exit polls had given it.
 
Of the remaining six seats, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) won one seat, the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) two seats and Independents three.
 
The BTP, headed by former JD (U) MLA Chotubhai Vasava is an ally of the Congress, while one of the Independents, Jignesh Mewani, a Dalit activist, was backed by the Congress.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, where power has, in the last few decades, alternated between the two parties every five years, the BJP bagged 44 seats in the 68-member House. The ruling Congress won 20 and was ahead in one more, making a total of 21. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) won one seat and one Independent candidate had won a seat and another was in the lead.
 
The BJP had won 115 seats and the Congress 61 in the last Assembly elections in Gujarat in 2012, when the Chief Minister of the State was Mr. Narendra Modi, who went on to become the Prime Minister of the country in May, 2014.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, the Congress had won 36 of the 68 seats in the 2012 elections and the BJP 26.
 
For the Congress, though it ended up on the losing side, the Gujarat performance will considerably boost the confidence of its new president Rahul Gandhi and the entire party as it begins preparations for equally important elections in various states before the 2019 Lok Sabha poll.
 
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani won from Rajkot (West) with a huge margin of 53,755 votes over Indranil Rajyaguru of the Congress, the richest candidate in the elections, while Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel won by 7137 votes over his nearest rival, Jivabhai Patel of the Congress in Mehsana. 
 
Gujarat BJP chief Jitendra Vaghani won from Bhavnagar West by a margin of 27,185 votes against Dilipsinh Gohil of the Congress but his colleague and former Minister Jayanarayan Vyas lost to Chandanjit Thakor by 17,260 votes in Sidhpur.
 
Senior Congress leaders Shaktisinh Gohil lost from Mandvi, Arjun Modhvadia from Porbandar and Siddharth Patel, son of former Chief Minister Chimanbhai Patel, from Dabhoi.
 
Alpesh Thakor, the OBC leader who joined the Congress just ahead of the elections, won from Radhanpur, while Dalit activist Jignesh Mewani, who contested from Vadgam as an independent candidate with the support of the Congress, also sailed through.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, while the BJP scored a resounding win, its chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal lost to Rajinder Rana of the Congress by 2933 votes in Sujanpur.
 
Outgoing Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh won from Arki and his son Vikramaditya Singh emerged victorious from Shimla Rural.
 
Counting of votes began at 8 am in the two states.  The BJP took an early lead, but it had a scare for a brief while around mid-morning when the Congress suddenly surged ahead before the ruling party regained its lead.
 
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Polling was held for the 182-member Gujarat Assembly in two phases on December 9 and 14, while voting for the 68-member Himachal Pradesh Assembly was held on November 9.
 
In Gujarat, 68.41 percent of the 4.35 crore electorate had exercise their franchise in the two phases of polling. In the first phase of polling, 66.75 percent of the electors had voted in 89 constituencies in the Saurashtra, Kutch and South Gujarat regions of the state. In the second round of polling, 69.99 percent of the voters had exercised their franchise in 93 constituencies of North and Central Gujarat.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, more than 74 percent of the 50.25 lakh voters had turned out to exercise their franchise.
 
The elections were seen as a crucial test of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity and the policies and programmes of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre and in Gujarat. In particular, the Congress kept up the focus on demonetisation and the implementation of the Goods and Service Tax (GST) as well as on issues like jobs, education and healthcare.
 
The elections are also the first major challenge for Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, who took over as the new president of his party on December 16. Mr. Gandhi can look back with satisfaction on a fairly well-crafted campaign that seemed to have rattled the BJP at one stage before Mr. Modi flew in for the last few days and managed to garner considerable support for his party by citing alleged insulting remarks made by Mr. Mani Shankar Aiyar of the Congress against him, a son of Gujarat, and also a dinner hosted by the former Union Minister for former Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri. Mr. Modi suggested at election meetings that there was something conspiratorial about the gathering at which dignitaries like former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former Vice-President M. Hamid Ansari, former External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh, former Army chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor, several former diplomats and senior journalists were also present.
 
Questions were also raised about Mr. Gandhi's visits to dozens of temples across Gujarat during the campaign and whether he is a Hindu or not, and when the Congress President asserted that he indeed was one, the BJP promptly accused him of practising "soft Hindutva". 
 
As the Congress and its spokespersons tied themselves up in knots on these and other issues, the campaign was over. On the last day of the campaign, the local authorities denied permission for road shows planned in Ahmedabad by both Mr. Modi and Mr. Gandhi. Mr. Gandhi addressed a press conference, and Mr. Modi took a much-publicised seaplane ride to the famous Ambaji temple from the Sabarmati river in Ahmedabad.
 
On the eve of the second phase of polling on December 13, the Election Commission stepped in and stopped television channels from telecasting interviews with Mr. Gandhi. On the day of polling, Mr. Modi seemed to stage a short road show and the Congress protested loudly to the Election Commission. By then, of course, the elections were over.
 
An average of the results of the exit polls telecast by various television channels soon after polling ended in Gujarat on Thursday gave 111 seats to the ruling BJP and 70 to the Congress.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, the exit polls gave 48 seats to the BJP and 19 to the ruling Congress.
 
Mr. Modi and Mr. Gandhi led a galaxy of leaders from their respective parties in the often-bitter campaign, addressing scores of meetings in the two states.
 
While the BJP made every effort during the campaign to extend its 22-year reign in Gujarat, the Congress, which has been in the political wilderness in the state for more than two decades, made a determined bid to win this time, with Mr. Gandhi leading from the front.
 
The Congress was buoyed in its efforts in Gujarat by the support received from three popular youth leaders -- Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader Hardik Patel, Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani and OBC leader Alpesh Thakore. 
 
With today's win, the BJP or its allies are now in power in 19 states across the country, while the Congress has only two major states -- Karnataka and Punjab -- in its kitty, apart from Union Territories such as Puducherry.
 
Many of these states, including Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Assam, have been won since Mr. Modi became Prime Minister in May 2014 and Mr. Amit Shah took over as BJP President. It is sharing power with senior partner PDP in Jammu and Kashmir.
 
It lost Delhi and Bihar, but then managed to get back JD (U) leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar back on its side after he ended the ruling alliance with the RJD and the Congress. The BJP and JD (U) are now in a coalition government in Bihar.
 
The party is now in power in Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Goa, though it could not make any progress in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and West Bengal. Earlier this year, it lost Punjab after sharing power with senior partner Shiromani Akali Dal for ten years.
 
Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram are some of the states that will go to the polls ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
 
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BJP leads in Gujarat, heads for big win in HP

The BJP was poised to extend its 22-year reign in Gujarat for another term and set to wrest power from the Congress in Himachal Pradesh as counting of votes progressed on Monday in the elections to the legislative assemblies of the two states, the results of which are expected to have a huge bearing on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

 
BJP workers celebrate as party heads for wins in Gujarat, HP
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was poised to extend its 22-year reign in Gujarat for another term and was set to wrest power from the Congress in Himachal Pradesh as counting of votes progressed today in the crucial elections to the legislative assemblies of the two states, the results of which are expected to have a huge bearing on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
 
As counting trends poured in all 182 constituencies in Gujarat, the BJP had won 84 seats and was ahead in 15 more, adding up to 99 seats. The Congress, which has been in the political wilderness in the state for more than two decades, had won 70 and was leading in 7 more, taking its likely tally to 77 seats.
 
Of the remaining six seats, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) had won one seat, the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) two seats and Independents had won one seat and were ahead in two others. The BTP, headed by former JD (U) MLA Chotubhai Vasava is an ally of the Congress, as is independent Jignesh Mewani, a Dalit activist, who was backed by the Congress.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, where power has, in the last few decades, alternated between the two parties every five years, the BJP had won 23 seats and was ahead in 21 more, adding up to 44. The ruling Congress had won 14 and was ahead in seven more, making a total of 21. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) won one seat and one independent candidate had won and another was in the lead.
 
The BJP had won 115 seats and the Congress 61 in the last Assembly elections in Gujarat in 2012, when the Chief Minister of the State was Mr. Narendra Modi, who went on to become the Prime Minister of the country in May, 2014.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, the Congress had won 36 of the 68 seats in the 2012 elections and the BJP 26.
 
The trends so far have made it clear that the BJP is nowhere close to achieving its 2012 tally of 115 seats in Gujarat or the average figure of 111 projected by various exit polls on Thursday, at the end of the second and final phase of polling in the state. The tally is also much lower than the 150 seats that its leaders claimed they would win during the election campaign.
 
For the Congress, though it ended up on the losing side, it has improved its 2012 tally significantly and, to that extent, the Gujarat performance will considerably boost the confidence ot its new president Rahul Gandhi and the entire party as it begins preparations for equally important elections before the 2019 Lok Sabha poll.
 
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani won from Rajkot (West) with a huge margin of 53,755 votes over Indranil Rajyaguru of the Congress, the richest candidate in the elections, while Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel was leading by more than 8,000 votes over his nearest rival, Jivabhai Patel of the Congress in Mehsana. 
 
Gujarat BJP chief Jitendra Vaghani won from Bhavnagar West by a margin of 27185 votes against Dilipsinh Gohil of the Congress but his colleague and former Minister Jayanarayan Vyas lost to Chandanjit Thakor by 17260 votes in Sidhpur.
 
Senior Congress leaders Shaktisinh Gohil lost from Mandvi, Arjun Modhvadia from Porbandar and Siddharth Patel, son of former Chief Minister Chimanbhai Patel, from Dabhoi.
 
Alpesh Thakor, the OBC leader who joined the Congress just ahead of the elections, won from Radhanpur, while Dalit activist Jignesh Mewani, who contested from Vadgam as an independent candidate with the support of the Congress, also sailed through.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, while the BJP scored a resounding win, its chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal lost to Rajinder Rana of the Congress by 2933 votes in Sujanpur.
 
Outgoing Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh won from Arki and his son Vikramaditya Singh emerged victorious from Shimla Rural.
 
Counting of votes began at 8 am in the two states and all the results are expected to be in by late this evening. The BJP took an early lead, but it had a scare for a brief while mid-morning when the Congress suddenly surged ahead before the ruling party before it regained its lead.
 
Polling was held for the 182-member Gujarat Assembly in two phases on December 9 and 14, while voting for the 68-member Himachal Pradesh Assembly was held on November 9.
 
In Gujarat, 68.41 percent of the 4.35 crore electorate had exercise their franchise in the two phases of polling. In the first phase of polling, 66.75 percent of the electors had voted in 89 constituencies in the Saurashtra, Kutch and South Gujarat regions of the state. In the second round of polling, 69.99 percent of the voters had exercised their franchise in 93 constituencies of North and Central Gujarat.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, more than 74 percent of the 50.25 lakh voters had turned out to exercise their franchise.
 
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The elections are being seen as a crucial test of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity and the policies and programmes of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre and in Gujarat.
 
The elections are also the first major challenge for Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, who took over as the new president of his party on December 16.
 
An average of the results of the exit polls telecast by various television channels soon after polling ended in Gujarat on Thursday gave 111 seats to the ruling BJP and 70 to the Congress.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, where the Congress and the BJP have alternated in office every five years for a long time now, the exit polls gave 48 seats to the BJP in the 68-member House and 19 to the ruling Congress.
 
Mr. Modi and Mr. Gandhi led a galaxy of leaders from their respective parties in the often-bitter campaign, addressing scores of meetings in the two states.
 
While the BJP made every effort during the campaign to extend its 22-year reign in Gujarat, the Congress, which has been in the political wilderness in the state for more than two decades, made a determined bid to win this time, with Mr. Gandhi leading from the front.
 
The Congress was buoyed in its efforts in Gujarat by the support received from three popular youth leaders -- Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader Hardik Patel, Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani and OBC leader Alpesh Thakore. While Mr. Thakore formally joined the party during the campaign and contested the election, Mr. Mewani was also in the fray as an independent candidate.
 
While the BJP has repeatedly said it would win at least 150 seats in Gujarat, a confident Mr. Gandhi asserted at a press conference in Ahmedabad last Tuesday that his party would score a big victory. 
 
In Himachal Pradesh, five-time Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, 83, a veteran Congress leader, is seeking a second straight term in office in these elections. The BJP has named former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, 73, as its chief ministerial nominee. Mr. Dhumal has served as Chief Minister twice in the past. 
 
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BJP leads in Gujarat, heads for comfortable win in Himachal Pradesh

The BJP had established a comfortable lead in Gujarat and was poised to wrest power from the Congress in Himachal Pradesh as counting of votes progressed today in the crucial elections to the legislative assemblies of the two states, the results of which are expected to have a huge bearing on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

 
BJP workers celebrate as party heads for wins in Gujarat, HP
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had established a comfortable lead in Gujarat and was poised to wrest power from the Congress in Himachal Pradesh with a big win as counting of votes progressed today in the crucial elections to the legislative assemblies of the two states, which are expected to have a huge bearing on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
 
In Gujarat, the BJP, which has been ruling the state for 22 years, was ahead in 99 of the 182 seats, while the Congress was leading in 71.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, where power has, in the last few decades, alternated between the two parties, the opposition BJP had surged ahead in 37 of the 68 seats, while the ruling Congress was leading in 22 constituencies.
 
The BJP had won 115 seats and the Congress 61 in the last Assembly elections in Gujarat in 2012, when the Chief Minister of the State was Mr. Narendra Modi, who went on to become the Prime Minister of the country in May, 2014.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, the Congress had won 36 of the 68 seats in the 2012 elections and the BJP 26.
 
Counting of votes began at 8 am in the two states and all the results are expected to be in by this evening.
 
Polling was held for the 182-member Gujarat Assembly in two phases on December 9 and 14, while voting for the 68-member Himachal Pradesh Assembly was held on November 9.
 
In Gujarat, 68.41 percent of the 4.35 crore electorate had exercise their franchise in the two phases of polling. In the first phase of polling, 66.75 percent of the electors had voted in 89 constituencies in the Saurashtra, Kutch and South Gujarat regions of the state. In the second round of polling, 69.99 percent of the voters had exercised their franchise in 93 constituencies of North and Central Gujarat.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, more than 74 percent of the 50.25 lakh voters had turned out to exercise their franchise.
 
The elections are being seen as a crucial test of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity and the policies and programmes of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre and in Gujarat.
 
The elections are also the first major challenge for Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, who took over as the new president of his party on December 16.
 
An average of the results of the exit polls telecast by various television channels soon after polling ended in Gujarat on Thursday gave 111 seats to the ruling BJP, which has been ruling the state for 22 years, and 70 to the Congress.
 
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In Himachal Pradesh, where the Congress and the BJP have alternated in office every five years for a long time now, the exit polls gave 48 seats to the BJP in the 68-member House and 19 to the ruling Congress.
 
Mr. Modi and Mr. Gandhi led a galaxy of leaders from their respective parties in the often-bitter campaign, addressing scores of meetings in the two states.
 
While the BJP made every effort during the campaign to extend its 22-year reign in Gujarat, the Congress, which has been in the political wilderness in the state for more than two decades, made a determined bid to win this time, with Mr. Gandhi leading from the front.
 
The Congress was buoyed in its efforts in Gujarat by the support received from three popular youth leaders -- Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader Hardik Patel, Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani and OBC leader Alpesh Thakore. While Mr. Thakore formally joined the party during the campaign and contested the election, Mr. Mewani was also in the fray as an independent candidate.
 
While the BJP has repeatedly said it would win at least 150 seats in Gujarat, a confident Mr. Gandhi asserted at a press conference in Ahmedabad last Tuesday that his party would score a big victory. 
 
In Himachal Pradesh, five-time Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, 83, a veteran Congress leader, is seeking a second straight term in office in these elections. The BJP has named former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, 73, as its chief ministerial nominee. Mr. Dhumal has served as Chief Minister twice in the past. 
 
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Counting of votes begins in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections

Counting of votes began on Monday morning in the crucial elections to the Legislative Assemblies of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, the results of which are expected to have a major bearing on national politics in the run-up to the all-important Lok Sabha elections in 2019.

 
Counting of votes began this morning in the crucial elections to the Legislative Assemblies of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, the results of which are expected to have a major bearing on national politics in the run-up to the all-important Lok Sabha elections in 2019.
 
Officials at counting centres across the two states began the process of counting of the votes at 8 am and all the results are expected to be out by this evening.
 
Polling was held for the 182-member Gujarat Assembly in two phases on December 9 and 14, while voting for the 68-member Himachal Pradesh Assembly was held on November 9.
 
In Gujarat, 68.41 percent of the 4.35 crore electorate had exercise their franchise in the two phases of polling. In the first phase of polling, 66.75 percent of the electors had voted in 89 constituencies in the Saurashtra, Kutch and South Gujarat regions of the state. In the second round of polling, 69.99 percent of the voters had exercised their franchise in 93 constituencies of North and Central Gujarat.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, more than 74 percent of the 50.25 lakh voters had turned out to exercise their franchise.
 
The elections are being seen as a crucial test of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity and the policies and programmes of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre and in Gujarat.
 
The elections are also the first major challenge for Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, who took over as the new president of his party on December 16.
 
An average of the results of the exit polls telecast by various television channels soon after polling ended in Gujarat on Thursday gave 111 seats to the ruling BJP, which has been ruling the state for 22 years, and 70 to the Congress.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, where the Congress and the BJP have alternated in office every five years for a long time now, the exit polls gave 48 seats to the BJP in the 68-member House and 19 to the ruling Congress.
 
Mr. Modi and Mr. Gandhi led a galaxy of leaders from their respective parties in the often-bitter campaign, addressing scores of meetings in the two states.
 
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While the BJP made every effort during the campaign to extend its 22-year reign in Gujarat, the Congress, which has been in the political wilderness in the state for more than two decades, made a determined bid to win this time, with Mr. Gandhi leading from the front.
 
The Congress was buoyed in its efforts in Gujarat by the support received from three popular youth leaders -- Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader Hardik Patel, Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani and OBC leader Alpesh Thakore. While Mr. Thakore formally joined the party during the campaign and contested the election, Mr. Mewani was also in the fray as an independent candidate.
 
While the BJP has repeatedly said it would win at least 150 seats in Gujarat, a confident Mr. Gandhi asserted at a press conference in Ahmedabad last Tuesday that his party would score a big victory. 
 
In Himachal Pradesh, five-time Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, 83, a veteran Congress leader, is seeking a second straight term in office in these elections. The BJP has named former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, 73, as its chief ministerial nominee. Mr. Dhumal has served as Chief Minister twice in the past. 
 
In the last elections, the Congress had won 36 seats and the BJP 27. 
 
Of the 68 seats in the Himachal Pradesh Assembly, 17 are reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and three for Scheduled Tribes (STs).
 
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Counting of votes in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh on Monday

Counting of votes will be taken up in the crucial elections to the Legislative Assemblies of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh on Monday morning and all the results are expected to be in by evening.

 
Counting of votes will be taken up in the crucial elections to the Legislative Assemblies of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh tomorrow morning and all the results are expected to be in by evening.
 
Polling was held for the 182-member Gujarat Assembly in two phases on December 9 and 14, while voting for the 68-member Himachal Pradesh Assembly was held on November 9.
 
In Gujarat, 68.41 percent of the 4.35 crore electorate had exercise their franchise in the two phases of polling. In the first phase of polling, 66.75 percent of the electors had voted in 89 constituencies in the Saurashtra, Kutch and South Gujarat regions of the state. In the second round of polling, 69.99 percent of the voters had exercised their franchise in 93 constituencies of North and Central Gujarat.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, more than 74 percent of the 50.25 lakh voters had turned out to exercise their franchise.
 
The results of the elections will have a major bearing on national politics in the run-up to the all-important Lok Sabha elections in 2019. The elections are being seen as a crucial test of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity and the policies and programmes of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre and in Gujarat.
 
The elections are also the first major challenge for Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, who took over as the new president of his party yesterday.
 
An average of the results of the exit polls telecast by various television channels soon after polling ended in Gujarat on Thursday gave 111 seats to the ruling BJP, which has been ruling the state for 22 years, and 70 to the Congress.
 
In Himachal Pradesh, where the Congress and the BJP have alternated in office every five years for a long time now, the polls gave 48 seats to the BJP in the 68-member House and 19 to the ruling Congress.
 
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Mr. Modi and Mr. Gandhi led a galaxy of leaders from their respective parties in the often-bitter campaign, addressing scores of meetings in the two states.
 
While the BJP made every effort to extend its 22-year reign in Gujarat, the Congress, which has been in the political wilderness in the state for more than two decades, made a determined bid to win this time, with Mr. Gandhi leading from the front.
 
The Congress was buoyed in its efforts in Gujarat by the support received from three popular youth leaders -- Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader Hardik Patel, Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani and OBC leader Alpesh Thakore. While Mr. Thakore formally joined the party during the campaign and contested the election, Mr. Mewani was also in the fray as an independent candidate.
 
While the BJP has repeatedly said it would win at least 150 seats in Gujarat, a confident Mr. Gandhi asserted at a press conference in Ahmedabad last Tuesday that his party would score a big victory. 
 
In Himachal Pradesh, five-time Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, 83, a veteran Congress leader, is seeking a second straight term in office in these elections. The BJP has named former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, 73, as its chief ministerial nominee. Mr. Dhumal has served as Chief Minister twice in the past. 
 
In the last elections, the Congress had won 36 seats and the BJP 27. 
 
Of the 68 seats in the Himachal Pradesh Assembly, 17 are reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and three for Scheduled Tribes (STs).
 
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IMD forecasts widespread rainfall, snowfall over J&K, Himachal during next 24 hours

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The India Meteorological Department (IMD) today said that fairly widespread rainfall or snowfall was very likely over Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh during the next 24 hours under the influence of a fresh Western disturbance as an upper air cyclonic circulation over Pakistan and neighbourhood.
 
A press release from the IMD said that, under the influence of the above system, scattered rainfall was also very likely over Uttarakhand during the next 24 hours.
 
The release said the minimum temperatures were likely to fall by 3-5 C during the next four days, thereby resulting in cold wave conditions over Jammu division, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Rajasthan and Gujarat from December 16 to 18.
 
It said dense to very dense fog was very likely at many places over Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and north Rajasthan on December 14 and at a few places over the same region on December 15, especially during morning hours.
 
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74% polling recorded in Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections

 
Himachal assembly polls: Voters queue up to cost their ballot
More than 74 percent of the 50.25 lakh voters turned up to exercise their franchise in the single phase polling held today to elect a new 68-member legislative assembly in Himachal Pradesh, official sources said.
 
Election Commission officials said the final voting percentage was expected to be slightly hour because there were queues of voters at several polling stations when polling ended at 5pm.
 
Polling had begun at 8 am amidst tight security, and was by and large peaceful in all constituencies, with no untoward incident reported from anywhere.
 
Himachal Pradesh had recorded 73.51 percent polling during the last assembly elections in 2012 and 64.45 percent in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
 
The term of the current legislative assembly  in the state is normally due to expire on January 7, 2018.
 
A total of 50,25,941 electors, including 25,68,761 men, 24,57,166 women and 14 of the third gender were eligible to exercise their franchise in today's polling.
 
In all, 337 candidates, including 19 women, were in the fray in the 68 constituencies. They include 62 sitting MLAs.
 
The ruling Congress, which is seeking to retain power, and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is hoping to unseat it, had both put up candidates in all 68 constituencies.
 
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Among the other parties, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) fielded nominees in 42 constituencies, the CPI (M) in 14, the CPI in three, and the NCP and the SP in two each. There were 112 independent candidates in the contest and 27 candidates representing registered but unrecognized parties.
 
The Election Commission had set up 7525 polling stations and deployed 11,283 electronic voting machines, along with 11050 Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) units for the elections. In fact, today's election is the first time that VVPAT units had been deployed at all polling booths in a state.
 
The Commission had also made elaborate security arrangements to ensure a free and fair poll, with more than 24,000 security personnel deployed across the state.
 
Five-time Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, 83, a veteran Congress leader, is seeking a second straight term in office in these elections. The BJP has named former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, 73, as its chief ministerial nominee. Mr. Dhumal has served as Chief Minister twice in the past. 
 
In the last elections, the Congress had won 36 seats and the BJP 27. 
 
Counting of votes will be taken up on December 18 and all the results are expected by that evening.
 
Of the 68 seats in the state assembly, 17 are reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and three for Scheduled Tribes (STs).
 
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Polling begins in elections for new Himachal Pradesh Assembly

 
Himachal assembly polls: Voters queue up to cost their ballot
Polling began this morning amidst tight security to elect a new 68-member legislative assembly in Himachal Pradesh.
 
The single-phase polling began at 8 am and will end at 5 pm in all 68 constituencies.
 
The term of the current legislative assembly  in the state is normally due to expire on January 7, 2018.
 
A total of 50,25,941 electors, including 25,68,761 men, 24,57,166 women and 14 of the third gender are eligible to exercise their franchise in today's polling.
 
In all, 338 candidates, including 19 women, are in the fray in the 68 constituencies. They include 62 sitting MLAs.
 
The ruling Congress, which is seeking to retain power, and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is hoping to unseat it, have both put up candidates in all 68 constituencies.
 
Among the other parties, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has fielded nominees in 42 constituencies, the CPI (M) in 14, the CPI in three, and the NCP and the SP in two each. There are 112 independent candidates in the contest and 27 candidates representing registered but unrecognized parties.
 
The Election Commission has set up 7525 polling stations and deployed 11,283 electronic voting machines, along with 11050 Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) units for the elections. In fact, today's election is the first time that VVPAT units have been deployed at all polling booths in a state.
 
The Commission has also made elaborate security arrangements to ensure a free and fair poll.
 
Five-time Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, 83, a veteran Congress leader, is seeking a second straight term in office in these elections. The BJP has named former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, 73, as its chief ministerial nominee. Mr. Dhumal has served as Chief Minister twice in the past. 
 
In the last elections, the Congress had won 36 seats and the BJP 27. 
 
Counting of votes will be taken up on December 18 and all the results are expected by that evening.
 
Of the 68 seats in the state assembly, 17 are reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and three for Scheduled Tribes (STs).
 
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Himachal Pradesh to vote on Thursday to elect new Assembly

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Polling will be held in a single phase amidst tight security tomorrow to elect a new 68-member legislative assembly in Himachal Pradesh.
 
The term of the current legislative assembly  in the state is normally due to expire on January 7, 2018.
 
A total of 50,25,941 electors, including 25,68,761 men, 24,57,166 women and 14 of the third gender are eligible to exercise their franchise in tomorrow's polling.
 
In all, 338 candidates, including 19 women, are in the fray in the 68 constituencies. They include 62 sitting MLAs.
 
The ruling Congress, which is seeking to retain power, and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is hoping to unseat it, have both put up candidates in all 68 constituencies.
 
Among the other parties, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has fielded nominees in 42 constituencies, the CPI (M) in 14, the CPI in three, and the NCP and the SP in two each. There are 112 independent candidates in the contest and 27 candidates representing registered but unrecognized parties.
 
The Election Commission has set up 7525 polling stations and deployed 11,283 electronic voting machines, along with 11050 Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) units for the elections. In fact, tomorrow's election will be the first time that VVPAT units will be deployed at all booths in a state.
 
The Commission has also made elaborate security arrangements to ensure a free and fair poll.
 
Five-time Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, 83, a veteran Congress leader, is seeking a second straight term in office in these elections. The BJP has named former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, 73, as its chief ministerial nominee. Mr. Dhumal has served as Chief Minister twice in the past. 
 
In the last elections, the Congress had won 36 seats and the BJP 27. 
 
Counting of votes will be taken up on December 18 and all the results are expected by that evening.
 
Of the 68 seats in the state assembly, 17 are reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and three for Scheduled Tribes (STs).
 
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Rahul Gandhi questions Modi's silence on corruption charges against BJP leaders

 
Rahul Gandhi hits out at Modi on corruption, jobs
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi today hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for remaining silent on allegations of corruption against Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders and accused him of only making long speeches while doing nothing on the real challenges facing the country such as joblessness.
 
Addressing a public meeting at Paonta Sahib, Sirmour in Himachal Pradesh ahead of the November 9 elections to the state legislative assembly, he said Mr. Modi had his own interpretation of a saying in the Bhagvad Gita and claimed credit for work done by others.
 
"The Gita says, 'you should do your work and not worry about the fruits of your labour', but Modiji has his own interpretation of this. He enjoys the fruits of others' labour and does not worry about doing any work," he said.
 
The meeting was the first of three that Mr. Gandhi was scheduled to address in the poll-bound state, a day after Mr. Modi addressed a series of meetings on Saturday in which he said that the absence of the top leadership of the Congress in the campaign so far indicated that the party had virtually accepted defeat and realised that it would not return to power here in the near future.
 
Mr. Gandhi said that his grandmother, late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, used to say that there are two types of people -- those who work silently and those who do not work but take credit. "She used to say that it is better to be in the first category, because there is less competition there," he said.
 
The Congress Vice-President said Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who, at 83, is seeking another term in office, belonged to the first category of silent workers who had done a lot of good work in the past five years in Himachal Pradesh.
 
He said the NITI Aayog had said that Himachal Pradesh was the least corrupt state in the country and that it was ranked number five in health and education infrastructure. He said Himachal Pradesh was at the top in cleanliness, electrification and had outperformed states like Gujarat in employment creation.
 
Ridiculing the BJP's claims about the success of the so-called "Gujarat model" of development, Mr. Gandhi cited official figures to say that Himachal Pradesh was far ahead on parameters such as creation of government jobs, unemployment allowance, opening of medical colleges, opening of government schools and colleges, widows pension, housing, health centres and so on. "This is Narendra Modi's Gujarat model, the Gujarat government does not do any work, but he makes long speeches," he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi said the BJP government at the Centre and in the States ruled by it had failed to act on corruption charges against its leaders and its allies, and cited the examples of the alleged Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh, the Lalit Modi case, the allegations against the Badals in Punjab, and the induction of tainted leaders such as Narayan Rane and Mukul Roy and readmission of former Karnataka Chief Minister B. S. Yeddyurappa into the BJP in recent times. "Modiji does not utter a word on these matters," he said.
 
Similarly, he questioned Mr. Modi's silence on the recent allegations against BJP President Amit Shah's son Jay Shah.
 
"Modiji had said 'Na Khaoonga, Na Khaane Doonga. He had said that he was a 'chowkidaar'. You are not a 'chowkidaar' but a 'bhaagidaar'," he said.
 
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Mr. Gandhi, who has also been campaigning extensively in Gujarat, where elections are due to be held on December 9 and 14, dwelt at length on affairs in that state and alleged that the BJP worked for only a few top industrialists while ignoring the aspirations of the poor, the youth, women, farmers, small traders and small and medium industries.
 
He also spoke about the November 8, 2016 demonetisation of Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 bank notes and the implementation of the Goods and Service Tax (GST) from July 1 this year, and said the two moves had inflicted huge suffering on the common man and caused incalculable losses for small traders, SMEs, farmers and the whole economy.
 
Mr. Gandhi alleged that demonetisation had helped some people to convert thousands of crores of rupees of black money into white.
 
On GST, he said that if his party were voted to power at the Centre in the 2019 elections it would carry out major changes in the GST system to bring it in line with what the Congress had originally intended to implement during its tenure.
 
Mr. Gandhi also said that creation of jobs was the single biggest challenge before India and on which the Government should focus. He said China was creating 50,000 new jobs every day, while India was creating only 450 jobs every day. "What China is doing in just two days, India does in one year," he said, reminding the people that Mr. Modi had, in the run-up to the 2014 elections, promised that he would create 2 crore jobs a year.
 
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BJP names Prem Kumar Dhumal as its Chief Ministerial nominee in Himachal Pradesh

 
Amit Shah names Dhumal as BJP's CM face in HP
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah has named former Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal as the party's chief ministerial nominee ahead of the  crucial November 9 elections to the state legislative assembly.
 
Mr. Shah made the announcement about Mr. Dhumal at an election rally in Himachal Pradesh yesterday.
 
Mr. Dhumal, 73, who has served twice as Chief Minister of the state and three terms as a member of the Lok Sabha, representing Hamirpur, is widely credited with having expanded the BJP's base in Himachal Pradesh in the last two decades.
 
He will turn 74 in April, 2018, when he will be just a year short of the BJP's unofficial cut-off age of 75 for its leaders to retire from occupying ministerial positions. The rule has been applied both at the Centre and in the States.
 
Referring to Chief Minister and Congress leader Virbhadra Singh's repeated questions to the BJP as to who its chief ministerial nominee is, Mr. Shah said that, across the entire country, the party was fighting under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
 
"But if you want to know under whose leadership the BJP is contesting in Himachal Pradesh, then I want to make it clear today. Vibhadraji, the BJP will fight under Dhumalji’s leadership in Himachal. I want to say that we will fight these 2017 polls in the name of our senior leader Dhumalji. I also want to say that Dhumalji is currently a former chief minister and the leader of the opposition, but after December 18 he will be the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh."
 
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Mr. Dhumal, currently the leader of the Opposition in the Himachal Pradesh Assembly, has served as Chief Minister from March 24, 1998 to March 5, 2003 and then from January 1, 2008 to December 25, 2012.
 
The party had initially decided to go to the polls without a chief ministerial face, but it has changed its strategy with just nine days to go for the polls. There was speculation at one stage that Union Health Minister J. P. Nadda could be its chief ministerial candidate.
 
Mr. Dhumal's son Anurag Thakur, former president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), is currently serving his third term as a member of the Lok Sabha from Hamirpur.
 
"Dhumal Ji is among our senior most leaders with rich administrative experience in Himachal. He will once again make a wonderful CM," Prime Minister Modi said on Twitter.
 
"BJP’s focus is politics of development. We want to make Himachal corruption-free & initiate record development initiatives in the state," he added.
 
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