Lok Sabha poll in Hamirpur: 'Dropped father’s surname to find my own identity,' says BJP's Anurag Thakur on bucking anti-dynasty trend

Anurag is a three-time member of Parliament from the region and is taking on Ram Lal Thakur of the Congress in the Lok Sabha election.

Pallavi Rebbapragada May 01, 2019 12:01:04 IST
Lok Sabha poll in Hamirpur: 'Dropped father’s surname to find my own identity,' says BJP's Anurag Thakur on bucking anti-dynasty trend
  • Anurag is a three-time member of Parliament from the region and is taking on Ram Lal Thakur of the Congress in the Lok Sabha election.

  • Anurag further says that increasing connectivity to and within the hilly state has been one of his key priorities.

  • At the age of 25, Anurag had taken charge of the then defunct Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association and was the force behind the Dharamshala cricket ground.

Tucked away in the tall hills of Himachal is Hamirpur, the hometown of BJP’s Anurag Thakur, son of former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal.

Thakur’s 75-year-old father lost in the Vidhan Sabha election of 2017. That was perhaps the first time that the chief ministerial candidate of BJP had lost his own seat. Other chief ministerial probables were former chief minister Shanta Kumar and Union health minister JP Nadda. Kumar was ruled out because of his age and has joined the saffron party’s margdarshak mandal (group of mentors). A relatively younger Nadda, without as much grassroots appeal, has enough time to wait for his chance later. Finally, Jai Ram Thakur got the go-ahead from the party top brass to become the chief minister of the hill state.

Lok Sabha poll in Hamirpur Dropped fathers surname to find my own identity says BJPs Anurag Thakur on bucking antidynasty trend

File photo of Anurag Thakur. AFP

Anurag is a three-time member of Parliament from the region and is taking on Ram Lal Thakur of the Congress in the Lok Sabha election. RL Thakur holds considerable sway in Bilaspur, which falls in the Hamirpur Lok Sabha constituency. Adding to the BJP’s troubles, Suresh Chandel, a senior BJP leader and three-time MP from Hamirpur recently defected over to the Congress. He too is from Bilaspur and can impact BJP’s vote share.

At this point, lineage legacy is something Anurag has to overcome to win in Hamirpur. Anurag says it is his innovative governance ideas and his proximity with the Centre to initiate and execute big-ticket projects, which will win him the seat for a fourth term. He shared with Firstpost that the foundation stone of a 250-bedded  Radhakrishnan Government Medical College was laid in Hamirpur in the presence of Union health minister JP Nadda in 2018.

“While I am proud of my father’s journey, but if I was to draw political mileage from it, at a young age of 14, I wouldn’t have changed my surname,” he tells Firstpost, adding that family lineage may come to help during first time elections but post that, it’s only the people’s will that gets one elected.

Anurag further says that increasing connectivity to and within the hilly state has been one of his key priorities. He lists the sanctioning of the Una-Hamirpur railway line and the approvals for 25 national highways for his segment as some of his efforts in this area. Last year, 53,000 athletes participated in the Himachal Pradesh State Olympic Games in the Hamirpur constituency and for Thakur, engaging the youth in sports is a good way to aid infrastructural development, tourism and also a way to wean them away from drugs.

“The energy of the youth needs to be channelised and building quality educational institutes and fine sporting facilities can make this possible," he says.

At the age of 25, Anurag had taken charge of the then defunct Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association and was the force behind the Dharamshala cricket ground. Though his unceremonious removal as the chief of BCCI earned him bad press, he feels sports aids in social and economic development.

Interestingly, one of his pet projects is the Sansad Star Khel Mahakumbh aimed at identifying and honing sports talent at the grassroots. The campaign started in June 2018, so far has witnessed the first phase of inter-panchayats matches with participation from over 1,400 teams, 25,000 youth across basketball, volleyball, football, kabaddi and cricket, encapsulating athletes hailing from 800 panchayats and over 5,000 villages.

The literacy level in Hamirpur is 97 percent and it is home to the state’s first National Institute of Technology.

“It is innovative governance ideas that make a leader stand out in the dynasty-versus-non-dynasty race,” Anurag says while elaborating about two of his ideas. First is the promotion of cultural tourism by integrating popular religious shrines like Chintpurni and Jwala Ji with meditation tourism in places like Dharamshala and Yol. The second is the development of mobile medical units that offer health services and conduct medical tests on the go.

“We have conducted more than 70,000 OPDs till date,” he says sharing that the service also conducts diagnostic tests on the move.

But how much of this effort translates into votes on 19 May remains to be seen.

Aside from Anurag’s Hamirpur, there are three Lok Sabha seats in Himachal Pradesh: Mandi, Kangra and Shimla.

In Mandi, BJP’s candidate is Ram Swarup Sharma. Although considered an honest leader, he is often questioned for not having done much work in the area. In fact, from one of the populated Vidhan Sabha seats in the area, Prakash Rana, an independent candidate won by 31,214 votes. The condition of the Congress is even worse. Former chief minister Sukh Ram’s grandson Aashray Sharma is contesting from Mandi. Sukh Ram’s archrival and longest-serving chief minister of Himachal Pradesh Virbhadra Singh is a towering political figure and is unlikely to openly endorse Aashray’s candidature. Though the two chief ministers recently shared the stage when Sharma filed his nomination papers, the friction between them is decades old and has polarised the Congress voters in the area.

In Kangra, BJP’s state minister for Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs for the state, Kishan Kapoor is in the fray. In this constituency, there are 17 Vidhan Sabha constituencies on which BJP’s senior leader and former chief minister Kumar is highly influential in at least 12.

Kapoor's victory is dependent on how well Shanta Kumar will campaign for him. Kumar recently announced his retirement from electoral politics. The Congress has played the OBC card and fielded MLA Pawan Kajal from Kangra. The OBC community has about 30 percent vote share in Kangra.

In Shimla, Col (retd) Dhani Ram Shandil of the Congress is going to compete against MLA Suresh Kashyap of the BJP. The 48-year-old Kashyap is a former senior non-commissioned officer of the Indian Air Force. Both faujis belong to the Koli community and the fight for this seat seems tight.

The epicentre of the battlefield, however, is Anurag’s Hamirpur, a litmus test for one of BJP’s national faces and certainly Himachal Pradesh’s biggest national political face at this point. Anurag says he is confident of surviving the anti-dynasty wave on the strength of his governance and says if it wasn’t for this attitude, he wouldn’t have been able to earn even a second term.

Updated Date:

also read

Amid image management, Opposition letter will help Centre focus better on tackling COVID-19
Politics

Amid image management, Opposition letter will help Centre focus better on tackling COVID-19

The lack of infrastructure and space to cremate or bury the dead and the sight of numerous bodies floating down the Ganges in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are bringing home to us new horrors.

UP panchayat polls: Samajwadi Party, BJP claim grand show in contest fought without party symbols
Politics

UP panchayat polls: Samajwadi Party, BJP claim grand show in contest fought without party symbols

The counting of votes began Sunday morning at more than 825 centres across the 75 districts of Uttar Pradesh

Puducherry Election Result 2021: AINRC gets 25.85% of popular mandate; DMK gets 18.51% vote share
Politics

Puducherry Election Result 2021: AINRC gets 25.85% of popular mandate; DMK gets 18.51% vote share

The AINRC has won ten seats, while the BJP has won six seats. In the UPA camp, the DMK won six constituencies, while the Congress won in two places