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HomePoliticsHimachal Pradesh Elections 2017In Himachal, independents and rebels may spoil Congress, BJP party

In Himachal, independents and rebels may spoil Congress, BJP party

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The state has a strong tradition of independents winning elections; of the 5 who won 2012 polls, 2 have been fielded by Congress & another by BJP this time.

Paonta Sahib (Himachal): Kirnesh Jung (60) has a spring in his step. Having managed his campaigns himself in the last election, he has been fielded by the Congress this time and suddenly it is all very different. This small town in Sirmour district, Himachal Pradesh, has his posters all over and an army of party members is with him as he moves from one election meeting to another.

“I am happy I got a Congress ticket. It is said that the Congress opens its account with 10,000 votes. As an independent, one has to struggle even for the first vote,” the incumbent MLA from Paonta Sahib told ThePrint.

Built by the 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, on the banks of the Yamuna, Paonta Sahib’s economy has been mainly religious tourism. Prosperity touched it over a decade ago when property prices around the town shot up. Now, it is dotted with branded stores, coffee shops and a buzzing industrial area on the outskirts.

“The youth are educated and have aspirations. We have to make sure they find jobs either in the tourism sector or industry,” Jung said at an election meeting.

Unlike most other states, Himachal has a strong tradition of independents winning elections and making it to mainstream parties. Out of the five independents who won elections last time, two have been fielded by the Congress and another by the BJP this time. The BJP has also fielded two independents who lost the last polls but came in second to Congress candidates.

In the 1967 polls, the second assembly elections in the state, independents won a sizeable 38 per cent of the votes polled. Two independents who won that year – Jai Behari Lal Khachi and Thakur Sen Negi – went on to play a prominent role in Himachal’s history.
Khachi began his political innings in 1962, when as an independent he lost to current CM Virbhadra Singh in parliamentary polls that year from Mahasu. In 1967, he entered state politics and won Theog as an independent. He again won as an independent before joining the Congress.

Bureaucrat-turned-politician, Negi’s political career started in 1967. He won the Kinnaur seat four times, thrice as independent and once as a candidate of the Lok Raj Party that he founded. He later joined the BJP. Negi’s legacy continues with his relative Tejwant Singh of the BJP who is now fighting Congress MLA Jagat Singh Negi.

In Himachal, independents and rebels may spoil Cong, BJP party
Independent MLA from Paonta Sahib Kirnesh Jung has been fielded by the Congress this time. | Source: Chitleen K Sethi

Mansa Ram, 76, is contesting his ninth election this time from the reserved seat of Karsog in Mandi district. He was first elected as an independent from this constituency in 1967. Later, he joined the Congress and also remained briefly with the BJP. The Congress candidate, 72-year-old Gangu Ram Musafir, who is fighting from the reserved constituency of Pachhad, has held it seven times since 1982 when he won as an independent.

The vote share of independents gradually depleted since 1967. It fell to 7 per cent in 1990 when only one independent Mahender Singh Thakur won. Now in the BJP, Thakur (66) is fighting Chander Shekhar (44) of the Congress for the third time in the Dharampur seat.

Since 1990, the vote share of independents has again gone up to a little over 14 per cent in 2007 and almost 16 per cent in 2012 when five independents won. This time there are around 150 independents in the fray. Prominent are those who have been denied tickets by parties or rebel candidates.

Making things difficult for the Congress are Vijay Mankotia, a former minister and five-time MLA who is contesting as an independent from Shahpur, former Shimla deputy mayor Harish Janartha contesting from Shimla (urban), six-time MLA and former minister Singhi Ram at Rampur and trade union leader Hardeep Singh Bawa at Nalagarh.

BJP rebels include former revenue minister Rajan Sushant who is contesting as independent in Jawali, Praveen Sharma in Palampur, B.K. Chauhan in Chamba, Lalit Thakur in Bharmour and former MLA Hriday Ram from Sri Renukaji.

Independent MLA from Paonta Sahib Kirnesh Jung is fighting his third election this time. He first contested as a candidate of the Loktantrik Morcha Himachal Pradesh in 2003 and lost to BJP’s Sukhram who is contesting this time too. In 2007, Jung lost the seat as a Congress candidate.


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