The election in the Una segment assumes significance as BJP state president and sitting MLA Satpal Singh Satti is battling to save his bastion for the third time in a row. In view of the heavyweight adversary, the Congress cadre appears to have shunned groupism within its ranks and file for the first time after two decades and is presenting a unified front.
Besides the two traditional rivals, there are four others who are also sweating it out in the arena as the tussle reaches its peak. They include Kamal Datt of the BSP, Gurnam Singh of the CPM and OP Rattan of the Trinamool Congress, besides Raj Kumar, an independent.
OP Rattan, a former Congress MLA, was a frontrunner for the party ticket this time too, but after denied ticket he opted to join the Trinamool Congress (TMC). He is supported by the block Congress committee president and some other office-bearers who, like him, left the parent party to join the TMC. They hope to cash in on a section of the Congress votes besides the 'annoyed' BJP cadre.
During the last assembly elections, the BSP candidate had garnered more than 7,000 votes and the party this time is looking to improve on its performance. Almost 40% of the population in the segment belongs to the Scheduled Caste and OBC, believed to be the traditional voters for the BSP. Party supremo Mayawati is also scheduled to address a rally in the constituency on October 28 in an effort to boost the winning prospects of the BSP candidate.
During the past decade, the CPM has gradually broadened its base in the constituency. The party cadre derives its strength from the workers and daily-wagers employed in the nearby industrial areas of Mehatpur and Tahliwal besides Una. The Communists are also likely to receive the support of the elaborate cadre of Anganwari workers, para-teachers and other contractual staff, for whom they keep organising rallies in support of their demands.
Moreover, the Leftist student organisation, Student Federation of India, has been registering a strong presence during elections to the college student central associations and this youth force adds to the strength of the CPM candidate.
Gurnam had contested last panchayati raj elections as a Zila Parishad candidate and had secured more than 3,300 votes.
Going by the trends of the last two decades, OP Rattan won the election in 1993 on the Congress ticket. He had sidelined the claims of Virender Gautam and ever since, there has been a distinct polarisation of the Congress votes around Rattan and Gautam. This rift has also been the main reason for a comfortable victory in favour of BJP's Satpal Satti.
Virender Gautam is no more and OP Rattan has bid adieu to the Congress. In the absence of the two, the divided party cadre is expected to come together. The party has a new and young face in Satpal Raizada and the young cadre of the party is already mobilised and motivated in his favour. Though Raizada has not been introduced to a number of areas, he and his workers have quickly reached out to masses.
On the other hand, BJP's Satpal Satti is relying mostly on the developmental works undertaken by him during the last 10 years. These include channelisation of the section of the Swan river falling in Una segment, creation of parking lots and shops in the congested bazaar areas and sprucing up a number of school buildings.
However, there are issues that go against him too. He talks straightforward and is disliked by some. The pending work on the Mehatpur-Jhalera section of the express highway, which should have been completed in 2010, is an eyesore. Moreover, the constituency has not gained anything from the much-publicised efforts to strengthen the tourism sector in the hill state.
The battlelines are drawn and all candidates, including those belonging to the traditional rival parties, are putting in their best efforts to woo the voters. The number of votes cornered by the BSP, TMC and CPM candidates will ultimately be the deciding factor in the segment for the BJP or the Congress.
Last assembly election winner: Satpal Singh Satti
Victory margin: 11,852
Deciding issues: Work on Mehatpur-Amb express highway, meant to be completed by 2010, is still incomplete. No boost to tourism sector, no civic plans for three municipal committees.
X-factor: Both the BJP and Congress have fielded Rajput candidates, while OP Rattan of the TMC is the lone Brahmin in fray. The constituency has a formidable Brahmin population.
The multi-faceted development in the segment during the last five years and the division in the congress ranks and file will ensure victory of the BJP here.
Satpal Satti, BJP
I am new to the political arena, there is nothing against me and the party cadre is rallying in my favour.
Satpal Singh, Congress
All through the last 20 years that I have been in politics, I have stood by the principles of honesty. I have never compromised with public interests and kept development as the main agenda.
OP Rattan, TMC