The Himachal bypolls in three assembly constituencies and one Parliamentary constituency of Mandi particularly the latter assume significance as they are seen as a direct referendum on the performance of the Chief minister who hails from Mandi and also an insight into the voters mind just before the next assembly elections which are one year away.
The Himachal Vidhan sabha has 68 assembly constituencies out of which 17 representing the Mandi parliamentary constituency plus the 3 assembly constituencies where bypolls are being held are seeing exercise of the franchise by the voter. Thus approximately 30% of the constituencies will be voting in Himachal making it a semi – final of sorts. The Mandi Lok sabha seat is a vast constituency stretching over 6 districts of Himachal.
Moreover, for the current Chief minister who hails from Mandi the result of the Mandi parliamentary constituency where the wife of the 6 time former CM is contesting could be seen as a referendum on jai Ram Thakur’s government apart from being battle of prestige.
The seat fell vacant due to the sad demise of BJP MP Ram Swaroop Sharma who died under mysterious circumstances at his residence in Delhi. BRIG (retd) Kaushal Thakur a veteran of the Kargil War has been fielded by the BJP to take on Pratibha Singh the wife of late Virbhadra Singh.
Pratibha Singh wife of late Virbhadra Singh is leaving no stone unturned to swing the battle in her favour and apart from seeking votes in the name of the former CM who himself represented Mandi she is also raising current issues like price rise to drive home her point.
CM incumbent Jai Ram and his close confidant and minister in his cabinet Mahinder Singh both represent district Mandi and for them it’s imperative that they emerge victorious on their home turf and help the party in retaining the seat for the third consecutive time.
A loss in Mandi for the ruling BJP could have a bearing on the fortunes of the present CM as his term could be truncated by the high command in line with the party’s policy of changing CM’s when elections are near ( assembly elections are due next year in Himachal) to check anti-incumbency.
However a win in the Mandi parliamentary constituency will bolster the CM’s image and brighten his chances of leading the party in the assembly elections next year apart from checkmating his rivals within the state BJP.
The results of the 3 assembly segments will not matter for Jai Ram if he is able to retain the big prize – Mandi parliamentary constituency – for the party as any losses in the assembly constituencies of Jubbal – Naver- Kotkhai, Arki and Fatehpur which will again go for voting next year could and will be overlooked by the party.
As things stand BJP is clearly on the backfoot in Jubbal – Naver – Kotkhai assembly segment in Shimla district where the son of late MLA Narinder Bragta who had a cabinet rank in the current government is in the fray as an independent after having been denied the party ticket by the high command on grounds of not promoting dynastic politics.
However, Chetan Bragta is claiming that his ticket was cancelled at the last moment by the party high command after being assured of the ticket earlier. Thus it is clearly advantage Congress and if Chetan Bragta is able to pull of a win it will vindicate the stand of his supporters who are upset at the wrong allotment of ticket by the party.
The story is no different in Arki constituency where former MLA Govind Ram of the BJP is upset on being denied the party ticket. Arki assembly constituency got vacant after the passing away of 6 time former CM of Himachal and former Union minister Virbhadra Singh Virbhadra Singh. The state Congress is going all out to garner votes in the name of their former CM who rode like a colossus on the political landscape of Himachal.
Whichever way the tide of the voter flows, Himachal will be again buzzing with political activity next year when the term of the current assembly ends.