- PK Dhumal, trailing Congress rival Rajendra Singh Rana, concedes defeat
- "Personal loss is not of much importance," says PK Dhumal
- PK Dhumal was BJP's Chief Ministerial candidate for Himachal
Playing down his personal loss, Mr Dhumal said he was thankful to the people of the state for voting the BJP to power. "In politics, sometimes one wins, sometimes one loses. I was not expecting to lose, I will do an analysis," he said.
A two-time Chief Minister of the state, Mr Dhumal was picked by the BJP as its presumptive Chief Minister two weeks before the election in the state, held on November 9. It was a change from the party's strategy of projecting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to seek votes. The move was expected to bolster the state BJP workers in face of Congress taunts that the party has no credible face to take on its six-time Chief Minister, Virbhadra Singh.
The choice was also expected to help the party gain the support of the upper castes - Brahmins and Rajputs -- who are seen as crucial factions in the state. Earlier, Union minister JP Nadda was seen as a front-runner for the top job.
Mr Dhumal's selection was expected to work in the favour of BJP in Sujanpur, close to his home turf Hamirpur, which had chosen a Congress candidate in the assembly elections of 2012. Rajendra Singh Rana, the sitting legislator and earlier, a confidante of Mr Dhumal, had joined the Congress in 2012.
Compared to Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh had a low-key campaign, focused on local issues. Still Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited the state seven times to address rallies.
It had completely overshadowed the Congress campaign in the state, where Rahul Gandhi had only visited twice. Not much funds had been allotted for the campaigning either, reinforcing the perception that the party had given up on the state, which swings between the Congress and the BJP every five years. The mandate was seen as belonging to the BJP after five years of Congress rule.
At the age of 73 years, Mr Dhumal is a decade younger than Mr Singh. But he is only two years away from the informal retirement age in the BJP. The face-off between the two political heavyweights in the state has been long-standing. Since 1998, the two had taken turns to occupy the Chief Minister's post. Mr Dhumal had led the BJP to victory in the state in 1998 and 2007. After Amit Shah declared the veteran as the BJP's choice for chief minister, PM Modi had hailed him as a "wonderful CM", praising his rich administrative experience.
This time, the BJP had built its campaign against the multiple corruption allegations against Virbhadra Singh, who is being investigated by three central agencies following accusations of graft. The BJP has been seeking the Chief Minister's removal since 2015, triggering tit-for-tat corruption allegations against Mr Dhumal from the Congress camp.
The BJP poll strategy appears to have paid off, with the party leading in more than 40 of the state's 68 seats. Earlier on Monday, Anurag Thakur, the son of Mr Dhumal, a parliamentarian from Hamirpur, had predicted a "landslide victory" of the party in the state.
Senior BJP leader Jairam Thakur, who has won from Seraj assembly seat, rushed to Delhi. He was one of the strong contenders for the Chief Minister's post.