By-election in Bhoranj is high on symbolism as its outcome is being seen a precursor to the assembly elections scheduled this year. The elections are a prestigious battle for both chief minister Virbhadra Singh and his predecessor - arch rival former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal.
Ruling Congress and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are trying with all their might to win the elections as it will shape the contours of the state’s political future.
BJP is confident of retaining its long-held citadel Bhoranj (previously Mewa) bastion. Party veteran Ishwar Dass Dhiman was elected six times from the constituency. After his death, the party relies on his son Anil Dhiman and is sure that the electorate will sympathetically vote for him.
Also for BJP’s vanguard leader, former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, the elections are being considered a litmus test as his biggest challenge for now is to check the increasing clout of the party’s national general secretary and union health minister Jagat Parkask Nadda - who is keen to return back to the state politics. Many of Dhumal’s supporters have already begun to hob nob with Nadda. The election outcome will certainly reflect on Dhumal’s popularity in his home district.
BJP’s election campaign from the beginning has been more focused, as its leaders, from top brass to middle rung, are leaving no stone unturned for the party’s victory. Corruption cases against chief minister Virbhadra Singh and failure of the Congress government are BJP’s main poll plank in the elections.
- Total voters: 75,719
- Male voters: 37,514
- Female voters: 38,205
- Candidates: 4
- Voting time: 5am to 5 pm
“Virbhadra Singh should resign and seek a fresh mandate. Here the head of the government is facing serious cases of corruption,” said state party chief Satpal Singh Satti.
Congress, on the other hand, is riding on the development works it carried in the last five years, even as the infighting grappled its election campaign.
Congress first announced candidature of local leader Prem Kaushal and later fielded three-time zila parishad member Promila Devi. Since women outnumber men in the electorate, Congress is hoping to gain support from the fairer sex in the by-polls. Congress, while allotting ticket, also kept in mind the caste factor and regional factor. Promila is the zila parishad member from Samirpur, the home ward of Prem Kumar Dhumal.
Congress is also exploiting ‘parivar vaad’ (family rule) in the elections though dissensions appeared in BJP cadres over allotment of ticket to Anil Dhiman.
BJP rebel Pavan Chandel, who is from RSS background, is also hopeful of cutting into the saffron party’s vote bank. Chandel concentrated in the areas which have more density of Sangh activists.
The outcome will also reflect on the popularity of the Congress government which claims to have fulfilled all the promises it made in its election manifesto. Hamirpur is also the home district of state party chief Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, who has completed more than four years in the office. Political pandits are seeing the outcome of the by-poll as a precursor for the elections.
Main issues in Bhoranj
Family rule of Dhimans: Senior (Ishwar Dass) Dhiman had won the seat for the first time in 2000 and remained MLA till his death in November 2016.
Sympathy factor: BJP candidate Anil Dhiman is depending on sympathy factor. He is hopeful that his father’s public rapport will help him get votes.
Unemployment: Growing unemployment and not providing allowance to all as promised in the last elections by the Congress party is being debated.
Reliability: Congress relies on chief minister Virbhadra Singh and BJP is dependent on former chief Prem Kumar Dhumal in the constituency
Charges against CM: Corruption case against Virbhadra have given BJP a handle to exploit against him.