Seven-time MLA and the oldest candidate in fray, Congress veteran Vidya Stokes is pitched in a seven cornered contest in Theog constituency of Shimla in next month's Assembly polls in Himachal Pradesh.
Stokes, the leader of opposition in Vidhan Sabha, is at the ripe age of 84 the oldest candidate in fray and contesting for the 10th time. She is facing her old rival and sitting MLA, Rakesh Verma (BJP) and nephew Rakesh Singha, a senior CPI(M) leader.
The veteran leader, who has all along been a strong contender for the post of the chief minister, was the natural rival of former chief minister and HPCC president VB Singh, but this time she is getting his full support.
She was elected to the Vidhan Sabha for the first time in 1974 in a by-election caused by the sudden death of her husband, Lal Chand Stokes and won from this seat in 1982, 1985, 1990 and 1998 but lost in 1977 and 1993.
She changed her constituency to Kumarsein after the death of JBL Khachi in 2001 and won the election in 2003 and 2007.
However, her Kumarsein constituency was scrapped in delimitation and a major portion was added to Theog and left with no other option, she reverted back to Theog.
Though there are seven candidates in fray, the main contest is between Vidya Stokes, Rakesh Verma and Rakesh Singha. The TMC candidate Pramod Sharma, who contested twice against Stokes from Kumarsein and finished second, polling 37.92 per cent and 32.91 per cent votes in 2007 and 2003 respectively, is also in the race.
Her age and the support of V B Singh are proving to be an asset for her and the feeling that this may be her last election is generating sympathy for her.
However, her main rival Rakesh Singha (BJP) is also well entrenched in the constituency and had won in 1993 on BJP ticket and as an Independent in 2003 and 2007.
After delimitation, the present segment is a combination of Kumarsein and Theog, with highest number of 73,500 voters in the district.
Rakesh Verma was keen to contest from adjoining constituency of Chopal as Balsan area, his stronghold, has been shifted to Chopal but party decided to field him from Theog.