Daunting task for Congress, BJP rides Modi wave

  • Naresh K Thakur, Hindustan Times, Dharamsala
  • Updated: Apr 27, 2014 11:58 IST

From invasion by Mahmud of Ghajni in 1009 to the offensive by Mughal emperor Jahangir in 1622, to the post-Independence politics, Kangra, mentioned as the ‘Trigarta’ kingdom in the epic Mahabharata, has always remained an interesting battlefield and has contributed to tilting the political scales since it was merged with Himachal Pradesh in 1966.

The parliamentary constituency, which gave Himachal its first non-Congress chief minister in 1977, remained a stronghold of the ruling party till late 1980s, with the Bharatiya Janata Party getting a breakthrough with Shanta Kumar’s victory in 1989.

This time, the BJP is again relying on the popularity of the veteran leader, who is pitted against Congress’ Chander Kumar and his protégé at one time, the Aam Aadmi Party candidate Rajan Sushant.

While Chander had defeated Shanta in the 2004 elections, Sushant rebelled against the BJP soon after he won the 2009 polls.

Shanta, who had not participated in electoral politics for more than 10 years, still shares a good rapport with the voters in Kangra. Though he had announced his ‘ retirement’ from active politics nearly three years ago, the BJP leadership persuaded him to contest the polls this year.

As Chander has been out of touch with people after his defeat in the 2009 polls, he is now banking on the caste factor, which has always played an important role in politics in the constituency, while Sushant is confident about his achievements as MP.

Caste has always been a deciding factor in the Kangra seat, which comprises 17 assembly segments, including 13 in Kangra district and four in rural Chamba, as the constituency is dominated by other backward classes (OBC), who constitute 26% of the electorate. Apart from the OBC vote bank, Rajputs constitute almost 25% of the electorate, Brahmins 22%, scheduled castes 18% and scheduled tribes (Gaddis) 9%.

Though the BJP is confi-dent that this factor would not become a rallying point, the Congress has played the caste card by fielding Chander, an OBC. Shanta and Sushant are Brahmins.

In spite of having the maximum number of legislators in the Kangra constituency (the Congress had won 13 segments of 17 in the 2012 assembly polls), the perfor mance of the Virbhadra Singh-led government has not been impressive.

Kangra also has the maximum share in the state cabinet, but the state has failed to keep the promises made by the Congress before forming the government. The poor condition of the roads has hit tourism, while the lack of industrial units has forced youths to move out of the region for jobs.

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