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Battle of veterans: Young voters on mind, BJP, Congress still bet on old hands ahead of Himachal polls-2017

Many candidates in the upcoming Himchal Pradesh assembly elections are octogenarians or septuagenarians.

HimachalPradeshElection2017 Updated: Oct 25, 2017 15:28 IST
Gaurav Bisht
Gaurav Bisht
Hindustan Times, Shimla
Virbhadra Singh (83), Prem Kumar Dhumal (73) and Kaul Singh Thakur (72).
Virbhadra Singh (83), Prem Kumar Dhumal (73) and Kaul Singh Thakur (72). (HT Photo)

At a time when political partiesare going all out to woo young voters, there is certainly no effort to field youth candidates. Both the major parties—BJP and Congress—are fielding octogenarians and septuagenarians for the big battle for Himachal Pradesh.

Six-time chief minister Virbhadra Singh, who is heading the campaign panelthis time,is once again criss-crossing the state after he filed his nomination from Arki. Virbhadra Singh has contested eight state assembly elections and fiveLok Sabha through his career.Singhis the longest serving chief minister of the state. In the country, he is onlynext to Sikkim’s Pawan Chamling and West Bengal’s Jyoti Basu.

Virbhadra, 83, is this time shifting to Arki from Shimla rural. Besides ensuring a win for Congress, the stakes are double for Virbhadra Singh whose son is making his electoral debut from Shimla rural.

Former speaker Gangu Ram is once again in fray fromPacchad— his long-held bastion. Gangu Ram, who contested the first elections 1982, won seven consecutive elections. But lost to Suresh Kumar of BJP in 2012.

Similarly, the Congress party’s front-line leader in Mandi,health minister Kaul Singh Thakur, 72, isalso contesting his ninth elections. Thakur had lost once in 1990. This time, his daughter Champa Thakur is the party’s nominee from Mandi and is pitted against Anil Sharma, the former rural development minister in the Congress government whohad switched sides at the last moment. Sharma’s father, Sukh Ram, a former telecommunication ministerand once a reckoning force in the Congress, too had switched his side. Nonagenarian Sukhram is still actively canvassing for the victory of his son Anil Sharmain Mandi town.

BJP’s stalwart Prem Kumar Dhumalis contesting elections from Sujanpur. Dhumal faces his protégéRajender Ranain Sujanpur. Dhumalentered the electoral politics in 1994 he contestedelections to Lok Sabha but lost.He won the elections to Lok Sabha in 1996. Dhumal emerged stronger when hebecame thepresident of the Bharatiya Janata Party in 1993.Dhumalwas again elected in 1998.

Initially, Jaswan was a Communist Party India (CPI) stronghold. Senior Congress leader Viplove Thakur’s father, renowned freedom fighter comrade Paras Ram, won the seat in 1967. In 1972, Congress won from Jaswan and in 1977, the Janata Party (JNP) won. Viplove’s mother Sarla Sharma contested the election in 1982 from Jaswan but was defeated. Viplove won from here in the 1985 assembly polls. She got re-elected in 1993 and 1998 while her brother Nikhil Rajour won from here in 2007.

In 2014, Viplove was elected to the Rajya Sabha for the second time. At 74, she is now the Congress candidate from Dehra, Kangra, and is pitted against Ravindra Singh, the sitting legislatorfrom the assembly segment.

A veteran of many political innings, the low-profile leader Mansa Ram is once again the Congress nominee from Karsog assembly segment. He was first electedfrom Karsog in 1967 as an independent candidate but Mansa Ram switched over to the Himachal Vikas Party and in BJP.

Former speaker Gangu Ram is once again in fray fromPacchad— his long-held bastion. Gangu Ram, who contested the first elections 1982, won seven consecutive elections. But lost to Suresh Kumar of BJP in 2012. Gangu Ram again facesyoung SureshKumar.

Gulab Singh, a former speaker, 70, fought his first elections in 1977. He was elected on a Janata party ticket but later defected to Congress. Gulab Singh grasped headlines in 1998 when hesided with Dhumal. His defection played an instrumental role in toppling theCongress government that lasted barely a month.

Dhumal headed then HVC combine government . Gulab Singh againwon in 2003 and then in 2012. His daughterShefaliis marriedto former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal’s older sonand Hamirpur Lok Sabha member Anurag Thakur.