Rebellion to resilience, Congress gets battle-ready for Hamirpur - Hindustan Times
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Rebellion to resilience, Congress gets battle-ready for Hamirpur

By, Hamirpur
May 22, 2024 09:42 AM IST

Himachal Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu spearheads Congress campaign as party looks to cash in on public annoyance with rebels in Hamirpur

The Congress swept the Hamirpur district in the 2022 assembly elections, but wresting the Lok Sabha constituency from sitting MP and Union minister Anurag Thakur will not be easy for the rebellion-hit party.

CM Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu being welcomed by Congress workers at a campaign rally in Barsar, Hamirpur. (HT Photo)
CM Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu being welcomed by Congress workers at a campaign rally in Barsar, Hamirpur. (HT Photo)

Four of the six Congress MLAs who rebelled against the party during the February Rajya Sabha polls — Rajinder Rana of Sujanpur, Chaitanya Sharma of Gagret, Inderdutt Lakhanpal of Barsar and Davinder Kumar Bhutto of Kutlehar — belong to assembly segments falling under the Hamirpur Lok Sabha seat.

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The loss of the big names has affected the party’s morale, but chief minister (CM) Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, who represents Nadaun, also falling under Hamirpur, has taken it upon himself to spearhead the party.

The high-decibel campaign puts BJP at the centre of criticism, with the Congress accusing the saffron party of orchestrating the rebellion in a bid to destabilise the state government using money power.

Sukhu has been canvassing for Congress candidate and close confidante Satpal Raizada, a former Una MLA, hosting rallies and events across the constituency. He frequently invokes Raizada’s “grassroots connect” and understanding of local issues.

The CM also attacks the rebels for “betraying” the voters in his speeches, looking to cash in on public sentiment against the BJP’s alleged horse-trading practices.

Whether the heavy reliance on public annoyance over the legislators switching sides to the BJP will reap dividends remains to be seen. Anurag Thakur’s clout in Hamirpur, on the other hand, is an established fact. The leader has represented the seat since 2008, taking over the mantle from his father and former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal.

Buoyed by the positive public response to his recent “Vijay Sankalp Yatra”, Anurag remains confident of his prospects. He is reaching out to the electorate, highlighting the developmental works carried out during his tenure as an MP and centres his campaign around the achievements of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Centre.

In fact, the leader during a campaign rally on Tuesday credited the Modi government for strengthening the Indian border. “Our soldiers yearned for good facilities and Congress kept weakening the Indian Army on the agenda of enemy countries. Under Modi’s rule, both the Indian Army and the border have become strong and secure.” he said.

Prem Koshal, the chief spokesperson of the Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee, however, said the Anurag was facing anti-incumbency. “He has made hollow promises like bringing a railway line to Hamirpur. The Congress has fielded a young candidate this time from Una district, which comprises five assembly constituencies, where our candidate has strong support. The public in Hamirpur is aware of how the BJP attempted to topple a democratically elected government and will give them their response on June 1.”

BJP leader and Bilaspur MLA Trilok Jamwal, who is also the coordinator of Hamirpur Lok Sabha constituency, dismissed Congress’ on-ground presence.

“No one was willing to accept the ticket to contest the election, nor did Congress have any strong leader to take on Anurag Thakur. In the end, by giving the ticket to Satpal Raizada, Congress has just completed a formality,” he said, adding that the people will vote for development.

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