Polling today, lot at stake for top two political families

  • Gaurav Bisht/Naresh K Thakur, Hindustan Times, Shimla/Dharamsala
  • Updated: May 06, 2014 22:13 IST

With the weatherman predicting a clear sky and a number of marriages coinciding with the polling date, political parties are jittery as 48.1 lakh voters are expected to exercise their franchise on Wednesday to decide the fate of 38 Lok Sabha candidates.

Himachal Pradesh's top political families, Dhumals and Singhs, have much at stake in these elections, as the results would decide their future in politics.

While chief minister Virbhadra Singh's wife Pratibha Singh is seeking re-election from the Mandi parliamentary seat, former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal's elder son Anurag Thakur is contesting his third consecutive poll from the Hamirpur parliamentary seat.

The two major political parties, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, have gone all out to ensure the victory of their candidates in the Hamirpur, Kangra, Mandi and Shimla constituencies.

Virbhadra, who has been the Congress' star campaigner, has addressed more than 200 small and big meetings across the state, while his rival Dhumal initially toured various regions of state, but later confined himself to Hamirpur district, bolstering his son's campaign.

Dhumal's Hamirpur fight

Anurag has been challenged by Rajinder Rana, his father's close aide at one time. Rana, who joined the Congress ahead of the polls, is known for his philanthropic work in Hamirpur district. This time, Rana is making Anurag, who has had to explain his image as a “jet-setting” leader, one of the biggest rallying points for his opponents, run for every vote. The BJP has been projecting as Anurag as one of the probable ministers in the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government after elections.

Virbhadra's man in Shimla

In Shimla, the contest is keen between Congress' Rohru legislator Mohan Lal Brakta and BJP's sitting MP Virender Kashyap.

With Brakta being a political greenhorn, Virbhadra's prestige is at stake, as the legislator is riding piggyback on his popularity, especially in Rohru, Shimla (rural) and Chopal, where the CM still has influence. Virbhadra had chosen Brakta in spite of opposition within the party. The Congress is hoping for marginal leads from Theogh and Jubbal-Kotkhai. In the previous assembly elections, the Congress lost its traditional base in Sirmour district, adding to the BJP's advantage.

Queen v/s common man in Mandi

In Mandi, the BJP's Ram Swaroop Sharma has made it a battle between the common man and the queen Pratibha Singh. Depending on her husband's popularity, Pratibha is confident of clinching her third victory.

However, Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party is facing an uphill task to cut through the Congress and the BJP's vote banks in Shimla and Mandi. Besides, AAP's Shimla nominee retired engineer Subhash Chander and Mandi candidate Jai Chand Thakur could not campaign across their constituencies.

Kangra's triangular quest

The Kangra parliamentary constituency is all set for a triangular contest, as three former members of parliament are pitted against each other. BJP veteran leader Shanta Kumar, who had earlier announced his retirement from electoral politics, is in the poll fray after 10 years, facing Congress candidate and prominent other backward classes leader Chander Kumar and his one-time protégé Rajan Sushant, contesting on AAP ticket.

Chander had defeated Shanta in the 2004 general elections, while he lost to Sushant, who had contested on the BJP ticket in 2009.

Besides his personal rapport with voters, Shanta is riding the 'Modi wave', with the hope that this time, people would vote on the basis of national issues, while Chander is by and large relying on the caste card, given the considerable vote bank of OBC community in the region.

Sitting MP and AAP nominee Rajan Sushant is banking upon his performance as the rookie party is trying to enlarge its footprint in the hill state. In Hamirpur, Kargil martyr Captain Vikram Batra's mother Kamala Kanta (AAP) is fighting a lonely battle.

Local issues ignored

Real issues concerning people have taken a backseat as leaders, during their poll campaigns, traded personal charges with their rivals. No candidate brought out a blueprint for the development of the state and overcoming the problems being faced by its people.

While the Congress is depending largely on All-India Congress Committee vice-president Rahul Gandhi to bolster its campaign on national issues, BJP's Narendra Modi tried to evoke sentiments with his speeches in all seats.

Railway expansion
Rehabilitation of Pong, Bhakra Dam oustees
Demand for import duty on apples
Lack of tourism development
Poor road condition
Environmental degradation
Lack of industrialisation
Crippled health services

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