Solan: Despite having only four Lok Sabha seats, the hill state of Himachal Pradesh is set to witness battles royal when it votes in the last phase of Lok Sabha Election on 19 May with many dynasts seeking to make a mark. Of course, who wins is another story set for 23 May.
Former telecom minister 91-year-old Sukh Ram rejoined the Congress along with his grandson Aashray Sharma on 25 March 2019 who is fighting the Lok Sabha election from Mandi parliamentary seat. Aashray is the son of Anil Sharma, an MLA from the Mandi Sadar Assembly constituency, who till recently served as a cabinet minister in the Jai Ram Thakur government with the portfolios of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj. Anil resigned as a minister on 12 April.
Sukh Ram won the Mandi Lok Sabha and Assembly seat several times in the past and sees his grandson as being the 'rightful heir' to his legacy. The former telecom minister is determined to help Aashray wrest this seat from his BJP rival Ram Swaroop Sharma who is a close confidante of Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur.
"The BJP has managed to establish a strong presence in lower Himachal but they have not been able to recruit too many young people in upper Himachal. Aashray has to win over the confidence of the younger generation," said a senior lawyer from Mandi while talking about Aashray's prospects.
Sukh Ram is also seeking to bury the hatchet with former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh who has been rivals for a long time.
Although Virbhadra is grooming his son Vikramaditya who won the Shimla Rural Assembly seat in 2017 to be the future chief minister, neither father nor son is contesting the Lok Sabha election making the atmosphere little easy for Sukh Ram. The nonagenarian ensures that in every rally he addresses, he makes it a point to publicly ask for forgiveness from Virbhadra for any past misdemeanours committed by him.
Indications of this new found bonhomie were visible when both Virbhadra and senior Congress leader Anand Sharma were present when Aashray filed his nomination papers in Mandi on 25 April 2019.
Another dynasty who is fighting for survival is former chief minister Prem Singh Dhumal’s son Anurag Thakur who is seeking re-election for the fourth time. Thakur is pitted against a lightweight Congress candidate Ram Lal Thakur, the MLA from Sri Naina Deviji Assembly seat, which also falls under the Hamirpur Lok Sabha constituency.
A few Congress leaders felt that if the seat was given to the three-time BJP MP Suresh Chandel (who quit the party because the BJP refused to give him the Hamirpur ticket), he would have succeeded in putting up a good fight against Thakur. A disappointed Chandel who joined the Congress on 25 April put up a brave face and said, "I will campaign actively for the Congress in the state." However, he is hardly seen in the campaign trail.
BJP president Amit Shah who recently visited Mandi bolstered the campaign of Thakur by heaping praises on him and stating that if people ensured he won at the hustings, he would make sure he would 'become a leader".
But Thakur is taking this praise with a pinch of salt. Sources close to him believe his father, former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal loss in 2017 from the 'safe’ Sujanpur seat was allegedly sabotaged by those in the rival Minister of Health Jagat Prakash Nadda's camp. This would also explain why the BJP performed poorly in three of the five constituencies that form the Hamirpur Lok Sabha constituency in 2017.
His father’s loss sent out a strong warning signal to Anurag Thakur and the public here believe that it was only during the last two years that Anurag had begun devoting time to his constituency.
Rakesh Singha, a CPM MLA from Theog which falls in the Shimla Lok Sabha constituency (and a relative of well known Congress leader Vidya Stokes), is critical about the way real issues of the public have been sidelined in the present election.
"Issues of employment, agrarian distress, non-repayment of loans are not being discussed. Our state suffers from national calamities but no leader is highlighting these problems. We have seen very poor governance by the BJP MPs in the last five years but they are hoping that the Modi magic wand will help tide them over another five years," said Singha.
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Updated Date: May 14, 2019 13:31:17 IST