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HomePoliticsHimachal Pradesh Elections 2017Win these 3 districts to win Himachal Pradesh

Win these 3 districts to win Himachal Pradesh

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Kangra, Mandi, and Shimla districts are home to half of the voters in Himachal Pradesh, and 33 of 68 constituencies. BJP is making a concerted push to gain ground.

Palampur: Of the 12 districts of Himachal Pradesh, three — Kangra, Mandi, and Shimla — have the biggest bearing on the assembly election results. They are home to half the state’s 50 lakh voters, and make up 33 of the 68 constituencies.

In the last assembly polls in 2012, the Congress had won 22 of these 33 seats, going on to hit an overall mark of 36 and forming the government. The BJP won just nine seats in these three districts.

This time around, the BJP seems to be making a concerted push towards gaining ground in these districts. Its star campaigner, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, held two rallies in Kangra and two in Mandi, ahead of the 9 November polls.

Kangra

Electorally, Kangra is the most important district in the state, because no other district comes close to its population of 15 lakh, of which approximately 12 lakh are voters.

Of the 15 seats in Kangra, the Congress had won 10, with a combined victory margin of about 50,000 votes over the BJP.

However, it was not always so — Kangra has traditionally been a BJP bastion. The only previous time when it swung the Congress’s way was in 2003, when the grand old party virtually swept the district on its way to forming the government in the state. The BJP wrested back a lot of ground in 2007, on its way to grabbing power, but lost it again in 2012 owing to infighting.

Also read: In Himachal, independents and rebels may spoil Congress, BJP party

This time, the BJP is not taking any chances, ensuring that infighting is quelled. The first BJP chief minister of Himachal, 83-year-old Shanta Kumar, holds some sway in Kangra, and was initially unhappy over the distribution of tickets after some of his personal favourites were ignored. However, PM Modi, during his two rallies in Kangra, showed due deference to Shanta Kumar, recalling his contribution, in what seemed to be a bid to pacify the senior leader and lay the internal squabbling to rest.

The BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal and his MP son Anurag Thakur have also focussed quite a bit of their energies on regaining ground in Kangra.

The three seats to watch out for in the district are Kangra, Nagrota, and Shahpur, which saw keen contests last time.

Mandi

In 2012, Mandi saw some very close contests — in seven of its 10 constituencies, the winning margin was less than 5,000, and in no seat did it cross 10,000.

The district, with a 7.5 lakh strong voter base, gave the BJP a combined margin of 20,000 votes over the Congress.

Mandi’s politics has been dominated for the last few decades by Congress veteran Sukh Ram. When Virbhadra Singh, a Thakur, was chosen to lead the Congress in the state, Sukh Ram, a Brahmin, was sent to the Centre. His infamous scam-riddled stint as union telecom minister, though, did almost nothing to damage his hold on Mandi. In 1998, after his name was tainted, Sukh Ram floated the Himachal Vikas Congress, which still managed to win four seats in Mandi.

Sukh Ram’s son Anil Sharma was part of Virbhadra Singh’s cabinet, but has joined the BJP this time.

Shimla

Shimla, with its 5.5 lakh voters and eight constituencies, has been the Congress’s bastion. In 2012, the Congress won seven seats, losing only the Shimla seat to the BJP by a wafer-thin margin of 628 votes. Overall, the Congress polled over one lakh votes more than the BJP in the district.

This time around, the major election issue in the region is the gang rape and murder of a school girl in Kotkhai, called the ‘Gudiya rape case’, and the alleged botching of the investigation. In its vision statement, the BJP has announced the setting up of a ‘Gudiya helpline’ for the security of women in the state.

An interesting contest is also expected in the Theog seat, which was the borough of Congress veteran Vidya Stokes. The 89-year-old wanted to retire from electoral politics this time, but was convinced to contest; however, her nomination papers were rejected. The Congress is fielding a fresh candidate, Deepak Rathore, against the BJP’s three-time MLA Rakesh Verma.

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