The Bharatiya Janata Party is likely to face a tough time to work up enthusiasm among party workers for its Mandi parliamentary candidate, Ram Swaroop Sharma.
Voters in Kullu, Manali, Banjar and Ani assembly segments of Kullu district as well as the neighbouring tribal areas in Lahaul & Spiti will be instrumental in deciding the victor in the polls from the Mandi constituency. In the past no BJP candidate with the exception of the late Thakur Ganga Singh and Maheshwer Singh have been able to win.
In 1977 Ganga Singh from Sundernagar, contesting on a Janata Party ticket, defeated the then Congress candidate, Virbhadra Singh. Later the BJP's Maheshwer Singh was also elected several times in the constituency.
It may be mentioned here that the BJP twice denied a ticket to Maheshwer, instead nominating NGO leaders Madhukar and Adan Singh who were no match at all to Congress stalwart Sukh Ram.
“There's no doubt Swaroop Sharma is a dedicated and disciplined soldier of the BJP with a strong RSS background, but he's not a crowd puller and won't be able to get many votes. The party thought Swaroop was the best option against the Congress' Pratibha Singh,” said a local BJP leader on the condition of anonymity.
According to sources, many BJP leaders in the district were getting text messages from workers saying, “Mandi seat Congress ko daan mein dene ke liye badhai ho” (congratulation for handing over the Mandi seat on a platter to the Congress).
A roadshow organised earlier in Kullu to garner support for Swaroop Sharma failed to enthuse BJP workers.
“We've to campaign more aggressively so that the Congress suffers a crushing defeat in the polls,” BM Rana, chief of the BJP's Manali assembly constituency, told the Hindustan Times. Welcoming the decision to give the ticket to Swaroop Sharma, he said the party leadership had recognized the dedication and loyalty of party workers by nominating a grassroots worker.
However, according to political pundits, the BJP should have done its homework before zeroing in on Swaroop. Some BJP activists said the party had many other options including former ministers Khimi Ram, Gulab Singh, Roop Singh, Jai Ram Thakur and former Kullu MLA Chander Sen Thakur.