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Stage set for direct Congress-BJP contest in Himachal

The poll campaign picks up, three out of four Lok Sabha seats in HP– Hamirpur, Mandi and Kangra, to witness a battle of prestige with high-profile candidates in the fray.

News Arena Network - Shimla - UPDATED: May 13, 2024, 04:32 AM - 5 mins read

The poll campaign picks up, three out of four Lok Sabha seats in HP– Hamirpur, Mandi and Kangra, to witness a battle of prestige with high-profile candidates in the fray.

Stage set for direct Congress-BJP contest in Himachal


The stage is set for a direct contest between Congress and BJP in Himachal Pradesh, where Lok Sabha elections to four seats and the Assembly by-polls to six constituencies are slated for June 1, the last phase of general elections in the country.

 

The campaign has picked up from May 14 last date of filing the nomination papers for the polls in Himachal, with BJP banking on ten years achievements of Modi government in the centre and state government's failures in 15 months of rule, while Congress has made BJP led Central government’s indifference towards Himachal in the worst natural calamity last year and the BJP's effort to destabilise the state government with money power, along with state government's performance, as major issues.

The Congress leadership has tried to convey in public that the rebellion by six MLAs, now BJP candidates in by-polls, was triggered by the money game at the behest of the BJP.

 

The state has four Lok Sabha seats and in the last two Lok Sabha elections, the BJP won all four of them with Modi factor dominating the show in 2014 and 2019. It was only in 2021, that the Congress party could wrest one seat (Mandi Parliamentary constituency) from the BJP when the by-poll occurred in the wake of the demise of the sitting BJP MP.

 

Three out of four Lok Sabha seats have a battle of prestige- with high-profile candidates in the fray. In Hamirpur, four times BJP MP in a row, Union Minister, Anurag Thakur is seeking re-election for the fifth time, in Mandi, Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut (BJP) and two times MLA in a row, HP PWD minister, Vikramaditya Singh (Congress) have locked horns, while in Kangra Parliamentary constituency, senior Congress leader former Union minister, Anand Sharma is contesting his maiden Lok Sabha election.

 

In the fourth Lok Sabha seat of Shimla (reserved) in Himachal, Congress has fielded its Kasauli MLA, Vinod Sultanpuri against former state BJP chief and sitting MP, Suresh Kashyap.

 

When it comes to the state Assembly elections, Himachal has seen Congress and BJP alternating power after every five years, with no third-party standing tall in front of them.

 

In Lok Sabha elections also, some independents and candidates from other political parties, including Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), file their nominations, but the state electorate has largely chosen to vote for Congress or BJP only. The independent candidates or those from any third party have not been able to make any major dent in the prospects of the two main political parties in HP.

 

It was way back in 1999 that Col (Dr) Dhani Ram Shandil had won the Lok Sabha poll from Shimla on the ticket of Himachal Vikas Congress, the political party floated by former Union minister, Sukh Ram, but he was a joint candidate of HVC and BJP. In 2004, Shandil won again, this time on a Congress ticket as the HVC had merged in Congress by that time.

 

There have been efforts to put up a third front in Himachal Pradesh politics as an alternative to Congress and BJP, but none made a difference in the long term. There have been different kinds of experiments however for pre-poll and post-poll alliance to gain power, especially at the end of BJP in the past in HP. 

 

In the 1990 Assembly polls, the BJP entered into a pre-poll alliance with Janta Dal to oust Congress from power in the state. In 1998 polls, the BJP had done a post-poll alliance with Sukh Ram’s Himachal Vikas Congress, a splinter group of Congress which Sukh Ram had floated just to see the ouster of his rival, powerful Congress politician and then CM, Virbhadra Singh.

 

Before the 2012 Assembly polls, the Himachal Lokhit Party led by senior BJP leader, Maheshwar Singh with some other party men, upset with the then BJP CM, Prem Kumar Dhumal was formed as a splinter group of BJP, but that too was short-lived. The party lost its hold and got back into the BJP after the polls.

 

The political observers find that no party other than Congress or BJP has succeeded in the long term in Himachal Pradesh as any third party that came into being in the state had old faces from BJP or Congress, who ultimately came back into their original folds. “So people don’t trust them much. New faces from Congress and BJP get the acceptance of people because of their party leaning. But that’s not true for any new party,” they said.

 

It is pertinent to mention that in Assembly polls in Himachal, the rebels in both Congress and BJP, who are denied tickets and throw their hats into the ring as independents generally, and in case of victory, they side with their parent party. Even this time, the three Independents, who are waiting for a decision on their resignation from the Assembly, were originally BJP rebels.

 

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