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All set for polls in Himachal

The fates of chief minister PK Dhumal, Vir Bhadra Singh, Ghulam Singh Thakur and state BJP chief JK Sharma and state Cong chief Vidya Stokes will be decided on Wednesday.

india Updated: Feb 26, 2003 10:13 IST

In Himachal Pradesh an electorate of 4,101,093 hold the scales of 391 candidates. Prominent among them are Dhumal, V B Singh, Speaker of the dissolved Assembly Ghulam Singh Thakur, state BJP president Jai Krishen Sharma and Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee president Vidya Stokes.

BJP and Congress are contesting all the 68 seats, HVC in 45, former Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party in 30, BSP 23, Samajwadi Party 19, NCP 15, CPI seven and CPI (M) four.

The Congress has fielded all 26 sitting members of the dissolved house while BJP has retained only 28 members.

The BJP, Congress and the HVC have a big stake in the Assembly polls which is likely to be crucial in certain constituencies where a neck-and-neck fight is expected.

HVC, a post-poll ally of the BJP in the last five years, hopes to play a crucial role again after the elections.

Both the BJP and the Congress are faced with rebels who may diminish the prospects of their official candidates at the hustings.

Four BJP members, including Ram Dass Malangar, Deputy Speaker and the former Agriculture Minister Vidya Sagar, who were denied party tickets, are contesting as independents against the party candidates.

Dhumal, who is seeking re-election from Bamsam constituency, faces a strong challenge from Kuldip Singh Pathania, a former president of Himachal Pradesh Youth Congress Committee.

This is the third time that Pathania is contesting from the seat. In the last Assembly polls in 1998, he had lost to Dhumal by a margin of 8,800 votes.

Mandi has always found importance on the political map of Himachal Pradesh and many of those elected have found place in the various cabinets during the past two and half decades.

Prominent among them is former Speaker Gulab Singh, who is now contesting from Jogindernagar in the same district.

In Kumarsain constituency, Pradesh Congress Committee chief Vidya Stokes is locked in a four-cornered contest.

Stokes shifted from her traditional Thego seat to fill the void created by the death of Congress stalwart Jai Bihari Lal Khachi.

In the last election, the Congress leader scored an impressive victory defeating his nearest independent rival Ghan Shyam Das by a margin of 9,575 votes.

The Nurpur and Dharmsala assembly segments are all set to witness a battle royal as two Congress stalwarts-- former HPCC chief Sat Mahajan and All India Mahila Congress president Chandresh Kumari--are making an attempt to make a comeback to state politics.

A grim battle is also on cards in Hamirpur constituency where Narinder Thakur, son of former BJP stalwart Jagdev Chand and his sister-in-law Urmila Thakur, are engaged in a bitter contest.

As many as 548 polling booths have been described as hyper sentitive and 1018 as sensitive and security has been tightened to ensure a peace polling in the state.

First Published: Feb 25, 2003 11:04 IST