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Himachal

Posted at: Oct 6, 2017, 12:40 AM; last updated: Oct 6, 2017, 12:40 AM (IST)HIMACHAL POLLS

BJP faces anti-incumbency, Cong remains divided

BJP MLA Sarveen faces challenge within the party; Mankotia, Pathania eager to contest, may spoil Cong chances

Lalit Mohan

Shahpur adjoining Dharamsala is a rural Assembly constituency having about 200 villages. Here the sitting BJP MLA and former minister Sarveen Chaudhary is fighting anti-incumbency. She has won from the area twice. The Congress is  divided into groups led by former minister Vijai Singh Mankotia and vice-chairman of the Forest Corporation Kewal Singh Pathania, a staunch loyalist of Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh.

Mankotia, a vociferous opponent of Virbhadra, had contested the last Assembly elections from Shahpur in 2012 on the Congress ticket after burying the hatchet with Virbhadra Singh. 

He, however lost to Chaudhary by a margin of 3,125 votes. In the 2007 Assembly elections, the Congress candidate, Kewal Singh Pathania, had bagged just 7,225 votes, while Mankotia supporter Onkar Singh, who contested as a BSP candidate, had got 16,143 votes.

Vikram Mahajan, a resident of Shahpur, said the BJP candidate was lucky because the Congress was divided in the area. In the last five years of the Congress rule in the state, Mankotia had been completely sidelined as Kewal Singh Pathania ruling the roost due to his proximity to the Chief Minister. Both leaders are competing with each other to get the Congress ticket. Hence, the ruling party is bound to be hit hard by infighting and undercutting of votes. 

Surinder Singh, septuagenarian and a keen political observer, said there was no doubt that Mankotia was among the tallest political leaders in the state. However, he has once again started levelling corruption charges against the Chief Minister after remaining quiet for four-and-a- half years. "If Mankotia is denied the Congress ticket and he contests as an independent it would again be a cakewalk for the BJP,” he said.

A visit to the constituency revealed that Mankotia was organising small election meetings in villages and seemed to have made up his mind to contest the elections as an independent, if denied party ticket. The Chief Minister has been demanding that Mankotia should be ousted from party for levelling charges of corruption against him. 

Confident of getting the part ticket this time as well, sitting MLA Sarveen is busy campaigning in the field. 

On the other hand, Pathania too is hoping that he would be the party choice to take on the BJP and has been camping at his native Rait village.

Sarveen is strongly relying on her vote bank among the OBC community to which she belongs. However, she is also facing challenge from with the party in Shahpur. Karnik Padha, a young Brahmin, is also making his presence felt in the area. Supporters of Padha have openly campaigned against Sarveen during the Rath Yatra of the BJP. A strong OBC Pradhan Balbir Chaudhary has been very critical of Sarveen Chaudhary.

In the past five years, Shahpur has got various development projects, including an SDM office, a government college in Lunj, which for the time-being, was running from the building of a government primary school and sub-tehsil in Darini, a remote area. 

The shifting of Central University Himachal Pradesh (CUHP) that 

has been running from its temporary campus in Shahpur since its establishment in 2010 was a major issue in the constituency. 

The people of Shahpur and its surrounding areas have formed a committee to demand that the CUHP should be established in Shahpur and should not be shifted to Dharamsala or Dehra.


Poll scene hots up

  • Mankotia has been organising election meetings in villages and seem to have made up his mind to contest the elections as an Independent, if denied party ticket. The Chief Minister has been demanding that Mankotia should be ousted from party for levelling charges of corruption against him. On the other hand, Pathania too is hoping that he would be the party choice to take on the BJP and has been camping at his native Rait village.
  • Confident of getting part ticket this time as well, sitting MLA Sarveen is busy campaigning in the field. 

Tough fight

Karnik Padha, a young Brahmin, is also making his presence felt in the area. Supporters of Padha openly campaigned against Sarveen during the Rath Yatra of the BJP.

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