After nearly a quarter century, a Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, leader finally steps into the Himachal Pradesh legislative assembly. Monday’s victory of labour rights activist and farmers leader Rakesh Singha makes it only the fourth time a CPM member has ever been elected to the state assembly. The last three occasions it won a legislative assembly seat were in 1967, 1977 and 1993.
Singha beat Congress’s Deepak Rahour and Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) Rakesh Verma in the election.
Congress veteran Vidya Stokes has been a five time MLA (though not consecutively) from Theog. In fact if it hadn’t been for a few misunderstandings, she very well could have contested this time as well. However, her nomination papers were eventually rejected for being incomplete. Stokes reportedly relinquished her seat for then chief minister Virbhadra Singh who, eventually, decided to contest from Arki. Eventually, it was this confusion and no small amount of infighting in the Congress which made things easier for Singha.
What makes Singha’s victory even more remarkable is that since 1982, either Stokes or BJP’s Rakesh Singh has always won Theog. Singh has mostly contested as an independent. Sitaram Yechury, general secretary of CPM tweeted #LalSalam for the historic victory in Theog.
The Left party has always had some presence in the Himalayan state, though mostly restricted to Shimla. In 2012, it had won both the mayor and deputy mayor posts in the Shimla municipality. This being the apple belt of Himachal, both demonetization and goods and services tax (GST) were important poll points as traders had felt the pinch.
The CPM’s poll plank was all about electing candidates who can keep both the Congress and the BJP, which have taken turns to govern the state, at bay. The student wing of the party, the Student Federation of India, has a strong presence in Theog. They were instrumental in organizing protests against the gang-rape and murder of a school girl earlier this year. The murder had rocked the state, resulting in large-scale violence.
“This victory (in Theog) is all the more significant since it comes in the background of a highly polarized contest between two major parties. This victory reflects the faith the people of Theog have reposed in the CPM to protect their rights," a statement issued by the party said.
Interestingly, it was Singha who had won in 1993 also, but from the Shimla (Urban) seat. He had contested the election in 2012 also from Theog, but clearly, 2017 was meant to be his year.