Going to the bypoll simultaneously with the Lok Sabha elections, the Sujanpur assembly segment in Hamirpur district is set for an interesting contest as electors in the area are keeping cards close to their chests.
While the cryptic silence of voters has left the candidates in a state of confusion, political parties have made the Sujanpur byelection a matter of prestige as local issues have taken a backseat.
The seat was vacated by Rajinder Rana, a one-time protégé of former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal. Rana, who had won the assembly seat as an Independent, had joined the Congress and resigned from the Vidhan Sabha to contest the Lok Sabha elections.
In a bid to cash in on the popularity of Rana, the Congress fielded his wife Anita Rana from Sujanpur. Strongly backed by chief minister Virbhadra Singh, Anita Rana was chosen over two other contenders, former All India Mahila Congress president and two-time legislator Anita Verma and Urmil Thakur, a former BJP MLA from Hamirpur, who joined the Congress recently.
Interestingly, both Verma and Thakur had contested against Rajinder in the 2012 assembly elections.
CHANGED POLITICAL EQUATIONS
As political equations changed in Hamirpur, Narinder Thakur, son of former BJP stalwart Thakur Jagdev Chand, who had parted ways with BJP in 2003 not only returned to the party fold but was given a ticket from Sujanpur, ignoring Urmil Thakur, his sister-in-law.
The move dashed the hopes of getting support of Jagdev Chand’s family as Urmil not only quit the party to join the Congress, but is now actively campaigning for Rana’s wife.
Anita Rana has made development her major poll plank and is seeking votes on the performance of her husband as a legislator and the work he had done even when he was not in politics.
Sarv Kalyankari Sabha, a social organisation headed by Rajinder Rana, has spent lakhs of rupees helping people from the weaker sections of society and Anita is promising electors that she would continue working for them in the same way.
On the other hand, Narinder Thakur is banking upon the legacy of his father late Thakur Jagdev Chand, besides hoping to get the sympathy votes by making “Ek mauka mujhe bhi do” (Give me a chance too) his catchphrase.
He is also relying on the popularity of former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, who is vigorously campaigning for Thakur.
With the Sujanpur bypoll overshadowed by the electioneering for the Lok Sabha elections, people are closely watching the changing political dimensions.
Meanwhile, political observers are of the view that Rana’s rapport with electors and the Modi wave are becoming a rallying point in Sujanpur.
As far as the byelection is concerned, people are in favour of Rana while for Lok Sabha they will go for BJP.
“Personally, Rana has done a lot for the people of Sujanpur. So we can’t forget him. We also want Modi to become prime minister,” said a member of the taxi operators’ union at Sujanpur, who was initially hesitant to open up.