By: Ravinder Vasudeva
Shimla: Electioneering for the Kangra Lok Sabha seat may not be getting importance – neither in the media nor in the verbal political duel among politicians – but for sure, the contest in this most politically significant area of the state is going to be bitter and interesting, and also an acid test for the five ministers in Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal’s cabinet.
Till now, Mandi and Hamirpur Parliamentary seats have been witnessing media coverage and fierce verbal duet between politicians of the opposition parties. These seats have been centerstage of political activity in this tiny hill state, as in Mandi the contest is between two royals from Old Himachal where the personal image of four-time chief minister of Himachal Pradesh and Congress candidate Virbhadra Singh is at stake whereas in Hamirpur the change in Congress candidate has tuned the poll scenario.
In political circles, Kangra Parliamentary seat, which also contains the four constituencies of Chamba district, is considered the most unpredictable political area of the state where the voters have the history of not moving with the political status of the political leaders. In this constituency, no candidate can feel safe as the stalwart status of the leaders don’t work in this region, and in number of political battles voters have proved the same and showed the way out to big leaders, even for the BJP stalwart Shanta Kumar or Congress veteran Sat Mahajan.
This time, the main contest in this constituency is between sitting MP from Congress, Chander Kumar and BJP candidate Rajan Sushant. In the 2004 general elections, Chander Kumar had defeated BJP candidate Shanta Kumar by a margin of 17791 votes.
Cast plays a pivotal role in the results of this Lok Sabha seat, especially the OBC vote bank which constitutes a big chunk of voters of about more than 30 percent of the total votes of the constituencies. Congress candidate Chander Kumar is from this community, a dominant force in the assembly constituencies of Kangra, Nagrota Bagwan, Jwalamukhi, Guler, Shahpur, Jwali and Dharamsala. On the other hand, Rajan Sushant, who is presently representing Jawali assembly constituency, hails from Brahmin community and is known for his social struggle for the people of the Kangra area. The BJP candidate can take comfort in the fact that since the inception of Himachal Pradesh the seat has gone to the candidate of the party ruling the state, except in 1989, when Shanta Kumar of BJP won the seat with Congress in power in the state.
BJP, which is also feeling heat of the OBC vote bank factor in Kangra district, is obviously toiling hard to attract the OBC vote bank of the area. “How can Chander Kumar claim that he enjoys the support of OBCs in the region when the present state government has two cabinet ministers from the same community in the form of Ramesh Dhawala from Jawalamukhi assembly constituency and Sarveen Chaudhary from Shahpur,” claims BJP media co- convener of the state, Praveen Sharma.
Out of the total 17 assembly segments in the Parliamentary segment, the ruling BJP has 12 MLAs (BSP MLA from Kangra, Sanjay Chaudhary has joined BJP), while the Congress shares the support of five MLAs.