With counting of votes for Himachal Pradesh assembly elections slated for Thursday, all eyes are now set on Kangra-the district that has remained in the centrestage of hill state's politics.
Kangra, which figures as Trigarta kingdom in Mahabharata, has the distinction of tilting political scales ever since it was merged in Himachal Pradesh in 1966.
After making all calculations, the poll analysts are of the view that ultimately it will be Kangra that will be in Kingmaker's role like the previous elections with the district having largest number of assembly constituencies, which is around 20% of the total seats.
Kangra earlier had 16 assembly segments, however, the seats were reduced to 15 in delimitation exercise.
The Himachal politics was dominated by leaders hailing from upper Himachal till 1967, however, the merger of Kangra with Himachal saw many politicians emerging from this region who put formidable challenge to leaders from dominant region.
With the rise of Janta Party in 1977, the state saw first chief minister hailing from Kangra, as Shanta Kumar formed the first non-Congress government in the state. Janta Party had won in 14 of 16 constituencies. However, the government fell flat due to intra-party squabbling and Himachal BJP was formed just before the next elections. In 1982 election BJP won 10 out of 16 seats in Kangra and was almost in a position to form the government with 29 legislators on its side but the Independents played the spoiler game, while in 1985, the Congress won 11 seats from the district and formed the government.
In 1990, BJP came to power after winning 13 seats from Kangra district.
However, the government was sacked by Centre in December 1992 after Babri Masjid demolition. In the next election held in 1993, the BJP faced humiliating defeat as district Kangra started a new trend in the state politics when sitting chief minister Shanta Kumar lost the election.
In the same year when Congress high command wanted Sukh Ram as the chief minister, the Congress legislators from Kangra defied the orders and extended their support to Virbhadra Singh for the top post.
In 1998, when the BJP was voted to power with the help of Himachal Vikas Party (HVP) floated by Sukh Ram, the saffron party won 12 seats in Kangra district. In 2003, the Congress won 10 seats from the district and formed the next government with Virbhadra Singh as the chief minister. In 2007, the BJP bounced back to power and the party bagged nine seats in the district. Interestingly, Kangra has always voted against the incumbent government.
However, this time the situation has become very interesting due to some rebel candidates in the fray, making it difficult to predict which party will gain in the district. The BJP is facing six strong rebels who will mar the winning prospects of the party candidates. Even in some constituencies, the contest is between BJP rebels and the Congress.
Though political analysts say only Kangra will decide the new government even if there was split mandate in the district. "In case a party gets clear majority, Kangra will decide the chief minister and in case there is hung assembly, it will be the Independents who will play a crucial role in the formation of new government. That's the importance of Kangra in state politics," said a political analyst adding that this election will also decide the fate of many bigwigs, including GS Bali, Vijai Singh Mankotia, Ramesh Dhwala, Kishan Kapoor and Ravinder Singh Ravi.