Shimla: The BJP was set to take power in Himachal Pradesh with its candidates on a victory lap in 36 of the 68 seats in the Assembly elections. The party won its first seat by defeating Congress cabinet Minister Prakash Chaudhary on Monday.
BJP's Inder Singh Gandhi defeated Chaudhary from Balh in Mandi district with a big margin.
Trends from the other counting centres across the hill state showed the Congress was ahead in 22 constituencies, while the BJP was leading in 43 seats and smaller parties and independents had inched ahead in all others seats.
The Bharatiya Janata Party needs 35 seats to control the Himachal Assembly.
State BJP spokesperson Ganesh Dutt told IANS: "We have crossed the half-way mark. This clearly indicates we are going to form the government in the state."
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh (Arki) and his son Vikramaditya Singh (Shimla Rural) were, however, ahead of their BJP rivals.
State BJP chief Satpal Singh Satti and BJP Chief Ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal trailed to the Congress from Una and Sujanpur seats.
A total of 337 candidates contested the November 9 election. A total of 37,83,580 people voted in the hill state -- a record 75.28 per cent polling.
The Congress and the BJP contested in all the 68 constituencies. Most exit polls had predicted the BJP's return to power with a majority.
The state has alternately elected Congress and BJP since 1985. In 2012, the Congress won 36 seats and the BJP 26. Independents bagged six seats.