Considered to be as bastion of Congress party since it came into being in 1972, Dalhousie constituency is all set to witness a tough contest between two women candidates this time.
Dalhousie-Banikhet before delimitation is the only constituency in the state where both the major political parties have fielded women. While, sitting MLA Renu Chadha is the nominee of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the congress candidate, scion of Chamba royal family and former minister Asha Kumari, is in the trying her luck for seventh time in a row.
Asha Kumari, a former minister, won her first election from the segment in 1985 with a big margin but lost in 1990. In the next assembly election after three years in 1993, Asha Kumari again regained the seat.
She had been winning comfortably till associate Renu Chadha-the former president of Dalhousie municipal council-crossed over to BJP in 1998 and contested the election on a BJP ticket.
A hotelier by profession, Chadha lost to Kumari in her first election by a margin of just 421 votes. In 2003 election, Kumari again managed to defeat Renu Chadha but in 2007 assembly polls, Chadha breached the Congress bastion and won by a margin of 1,065 votes.
The political observers are expecting a tough battle in the constituency like previous three elections as both the women leaders have maintained a close contact with the people in the last five years.
Besides organising small public meetings in the rural areas, both Chadha and Kumari are carrying out a hectic door-to-door campaign in the constituency.
Asha Kumari's campaign got a shot in the arm when All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary Rahul Gandhi and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh addressed a massive rally in Banikhet town of the constituency.
However, no prominent BJP leader visited the constituency and sitting MLA Renu Chadha is hoping to make it on her own.
However, the race to state assembly will not be a cakewalk for sitting MLA as anti-incumbency factor could mar her prospects. On the other hand, for the Congress nominee, Asha Kumari, who is banking heavily upon the party's traditional vote bank, this election will be a tightrope walk. With no other prominent candidate in fray, the contest is headed for a photo finish.
Asha Kumari is also not on good terms with Himachal Congress chief Virbhadra Singh and it can have a bearing on her prospects. Virbhadra Singh has campaigned in all the constituency of the district except this one. He was also not present in the rally addressed by Rahul Gandhi recently.
Virbhadra Singh is annoyed over Kumari's statement in which she had said that it was compulsion to appoint him as the state Congress chief but he cannot be the next chief minister.
Political observers feel that Virbhadra's supporters may sabotage Asha Kumari's poll prospects.
Meanwhile, busy in door-to-door campaign in the rural areas of the constituency, sitting MLA Renu Chadha said electors who have been benefited by the welfare schemes of BJP government will see her through. "I had concentrated on providing basic amenities to the rural population in my constituency while developmental projects I have brought to the segment will also help me to make it to the assembly," said Chadha.
However, Asha Kumari said the BJP candidate was trying to get credit for the developmental works started during the Congress regime. "People are fed up of the BJP rule. Bad roads, corruption and lack of development are the issue on which people will cast their ballot and I am sure that I will get the people's mandate," said Kumari.
TOTAL VOTES: 60,728
Last Assembly Election Winner: Renu Chadha
Victory Margin: 1,065
Deciding issue: Lack of development
X-Factor: The only segment in the state where two women are pitted against each other, third time in a row.