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Lok Sabha election 2019: Stakes are high for Congress, BJP in Himachal Pradesh

Riding on the Modi wave, the Bharatiya Janata Party had won all the four Lok Sabha seats — Mandi, Kangra, Shimla and Hamirpur — in the last general election in 2014.

lok sabha elections Updated: May 18, 2019 19:31 IST
Gaurav Bisht/Naresh K Thakur
Gaurav Bisht/Naresh K Thakur
Hindustan Times, Shimla/Dharamsala
Lok Sabha elections 2019,phase 7 Lok Sabha polls,phase 7 polls
Women wearing traditional dresses during voting awareness programme in Kullu.(ANI file photo)

As Himachal Pradesh goes to polls in the seventh and the last phase of Lok Sabha election on May 19, it is set to be a high-stakes battle for both the ruling BJP and opposition Congress in the northern state where politics has broadly been bipolar.

Riding on the Modi wave, the Bharatiya Janata Party had won all the four Lok Sabha seats — Mandi, Kangra, Shimla and Hamirpur — in the last general election in 2014. However, this time it would not be a cakewalk as the Modi wave appears to be waning and sitting Lok Sabha members face anti-incumbency.

While the BJP, which returned to power in the state with a thumping majority in the 2017 assembly elections, is eyeing to repeat its 2014 success, for Congress it is a battle of prestige given the fact that its voter base has considerably declined to 41.7 % during the assembly elections in 2017.

Read: Full coverage of Lok Sabha elections 2019

There are 45 candidates in the fray and Nisha Katoch, an Independent, is the lone woman candidate contesting elections. Their fate will be decided by 53,30,154 voters, including the 999 centenarian electors, in 7,730 polling booths across the state.

The ruling party has repeated two of its sitting MPs in two seats and fielded fresh faces in the other two parliamentary constituencies.

The BJP in Himachal Pradesh ran a high decibel campaign focussed on nationalism and the air strikes on Jaish-e-Mohammad’s terror camp in Pakistan’s Balakot. State leaders mostly talked about the achievements of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the issues of other national importance did not find much mention in their speeches during the elections rallies.

Read: All you need to know about Himachal Pradesh

The chief of BJP’s state unit Satpal Singh Satti and chief minister Jai Ram Thakur kept up their diatribe against the Gandhi-Nehru family. Satti was issued three notices by the Election Commission of India for his slur against Congress president Rahul Gandhi, general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and threatening Congress leaders of chopping off the fingers pointing towards Prime Minister Modi.

On the other hand, the Congress’ campaign was less enthusiastic. However, the Congress leaders raked up the loss suffered by traders after the imposition of Goods Service tax and the demonetisation drive. The Congress reminded people that the poll promises made by Prime Minister Modi ahead of 2014 election were not fulfilled. Modi had announced to raise the import duty import of apple from 50% to 70%, it said. Bad roads was another issue the Congress raked up beside the rising unemployment level.

Political expert Harish Thakur feels that the national issues blocked out local problems facing the people in the hill state.

“As the parties gear up for the May 19 poll, they have left no stone unturned to outscore each other. National rhetoric overshadowed the local issues and to some extent, the Modi wave seems to be alive to bail the BJP out,” Harish Thakur, who teaches political science at Himachal Pradesh University, said.

“The Congress may give tough competition at Shimla and Kangrabut chief minister Jairam Thakur image will play a positive for the BJP,” he added.

In Mandi, the home district of chief minister Thakur, the BJP has reposed its faith in its sitting MP Ram Swaroop Sharma. Pitted against him is Congress nominee Aashray Sharma, the grandson of former telecom minister Sukh Ram.

A win in Mandi will strengthen the position of Thakur, whom rivals term an “accidental” chief minister, in the party.

Though there is a strong public sentiment in favour of Jai Ram Thakur, the first to reach the top post from the region, the contest may head for a photo-finish given Ram Swaroop Sharma’s unimpressive term. What might hurt the Congress is the “party-hopper” image of Sukh Ram.

Mandi has the highest number of 17 candidates in the fray and the Election Commission has for the first time sought 2,200 electronic voting machines (EVMs) from Gujarat to accommodate the names. Two EVMs will be kept in each polling station in the constituency.

In another politically-significant seat of Kangra, the BJP has replaced veteran leader and sitting MP Shanta Kumar with his protégé Kishan Kapoor, a minister in the state cabinet who belongs to the dominant Gaddi community.

The Congress has fielded Pawan Kajal, a former BJP man and the sitting legislator from Kangra who belongs to the Other Backward Classes (OBC), the community with a strong voter base in the region.

Though the caste dynamics favour Congress, the BJP still has an edge given its fierce campaigning and factionalism in the opposition party’s Kangra unit.

From Hamirpur, a stronghold of the BJP for more than two decades, sitting MP Anurag Thakur is seeking a fourth term. The elder son of former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, Anurag carries the image of a high-flier and has been able to keep the BJP’s vote bank intact.

Pitted against him is Ram Lal Thakur, the senior Congress leader who has been a five-term legislator and three-time former minister.

The BJP has not lost a single election from Hamirpur since 1998. However, the loss of the party’s chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal in the 2017 assembly polls reflects the strong anti-incumbency against the BJP in its citadel.

In Shimla, the BJP has swapped current MP Virender Kashyap with Suresh Kashyap, the sitting legislator from Pachhad while Congress has fielded the former two-term MP and ex-minister colonel (retd) Dhani Ram Shandil.

Shimla has traditionally remained a Congress stronghold but the party lost in two back to back elections here in 2009 and 2014. The Congress is eyeing to regain the ground in Shimla and poll battle is likely to be a close one this parliamentary segment.

The votes will be counted on May 23 along with the rest of the country.

ArrahRajkumar Singh, BJP
BuxarAshwini Kumar Choubey, BJP
SasaramChhedi Paswan, BJP
KarakatUpendra Kushwaha, RLSP
JahanabadArun Kumar, Rashtriya Lok Samta Party
NalandaKaushalendra Kumar, JD(U)
Patna SahibShatrughan Sinha, BJP (now with Congress)
PatliputraRam Kripal Yadav, BJP
Amritsar:Gurjeet Singh Aujla, Congress
Anandpur SahibPrem Singh Chandumajra, SAD
BathindaHarsimrat Kaur, SAD
Faridkot (SC)Sadhu Singh, AAP
Fatehgarh Sahib (SC)Harinder Singh Khalsa, AAP
FerozepurSher Singh Ghubaya, SAD
GurdaspurSunil Jakhar, Congress
Hoshiarpur (SC)Vijay Sampla, BJP
Jalandhar (SC)Santokh Singh Chaudhary, Congress
Khadoor SahibRanjit Singh Brahmpura, SAD (SAD-Taksali)
LudhianaRavneet Singh Bittu, Congress
PatialaDharamvira Gandhi, AAP
SangrurBhagwant Mann, AAP
ChandigarhKirron Kher, BJP
KangraShanta Kumar, BJP
HamirpurAnurag Thakur, BJP
MandiRamswaroop Sharma, BJP
ShimlaVirender Kashyap, BJP
GoddaNishikant Dubey, BJP
DumkaShibu Soren, JMM
RajmahalVijay Hansdak, JM
BalliaBharat Singh, BJP
BansgaonKamlesh Paswan, BJP
ChandauliMahendra Nath Pandey, BJP
DeoriaKalraj Mishra, BJP
GhazipurManoj Sinha, BJP
GhosiHarinarayan Rajbhar, BJP
GorakhpurPraveen Kumar Nishad, SP
Kushi NagarRajesh Pandey, BJP
RobertsganjChhotelal, BJP
SalempurRavindra Kushwaha, BJP
VaranasiNarendra Modi, BJP
MirzapurAnupriya Patel, Apna Dal
MaharajganjPankaj Chaudhary, BJP
DewasManohar Untwal, BJP
DharSavitri Thakur, BJP
IndoreSumitra Mahajan (BJP)
KhandwaNandkumar Singh Chouhan (BJP)
KhargoneSubhash Patel, BJP
MandsaurSudhir Gupta, BJP
RatlamKantilal Bhuria, Congress
UjjainProf Chintamani Malviya, BJP
BarasatKakali Ghosh Dastidar, Trinamool
BasirhatIdris Ali, Trinamool Congress
JoynagarPratima Mondal, Trinamool Congress
MathurapurChoudhury Mohan Jatua, Trinamool Congress
Diamond HarbourAbhishek Banerjee, Trinamool Congress
Kolkata SouthSubrata Bakshi, Trinamool Congress
JadavpurSugata Bose, Trinamool Congress
Kolkata NorthSudip Bandyopadhyay, Trinamool Congress
DumdumSaugata Roy, Trinamool Congress

First Published: May 18, 2019 16:46 IST

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