Though Congress is banking on anti-incumbency factor in Hamirpur parliamentary constituency, yet it seems an uphill task for the opposition party to wrest the seat, which has been a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) bastion for long, in 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
The BJP has maintained its hold on the constituency since 1989, barring 1996 when Congress candidate Maj Gen Vikram Singh won the Lok Sabha polls on a Congress ticket, defeating the sitting MP, Prem Kumar Dhumal.
The constituency remained a stronghold of BJP and it was represented thrice each by former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, Suresh Chandel (now in Congress) and sitting MP Anurag Thakur.
Congress has fielded sitting MLA from Sir Naina Devi, Ram Lal Thakur, to take on Thakur and is upbeat over the entry of the former MP and ex-Himachal Pradesh BJP chief Suresh Chandel into the party.
Though there are 11 candidates in the fray to contest Lok Sabha elections, the main contest is between 3-time MP Anurag Thakur and five-time MLA Ram Lal Thakur.
Ram Lal Thakur had contested Lok Sabha elections thrice from Hamirpur Lok Sabha seat but wasn’t able to make to the parliament. He was beaten twice in 1999 and 2004 by Suresh Chandel and former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal in 2007 by-polls.
Hamirpur parliamentary constituency consists of 17 assembly segments of Hamirpur, Bhoranj, Barsar, Nadaun, Chintpurni, Una, Gagret, Haroli, Kulehar, Sri Naina Devi, Jhanduta and Ghumarwin with two constituencies of Kangra (Dehra, Jaswan-Pragpur) and Dharampur of Mandi district.
In 2017 assembly elections, 9 seats were won by BJP, 6 by Congress and one by an independent out of the total 17 assembly segments, giving an edge to the ruling party in the Lok Sabha elections.
In 2019 Lok Sabha polls, BJP candidate Anurag Thakur is hopeful of getting peoples’ mandate on development works carried out in the constituency, ranging from AIIMS at Bilaspur, Bhanupalli-Leh rail line, Central University and Hydro Engineering College.
“Besides this, it was former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal who had raised the issue of ‘One Rank, One Pension’ in Parliament and its implementation by Prime Minister Narendra Modi led government would go in favour of Thakur,” state BJP media in-charge Praveen Sharma said.
Sharma said Hamirpur has the highest number of serving and ex-servicemen in the state and Thakur, himself being part of Territorial Army, is likely to benefit from this in the general elections.
On the other hand, Congress is banking on anti-incumbency against the three-time MP Anurag Thakur and party candidate Ram Lal Thakur is hopeful of getting people’s mandate in his favour this time around. Congress coordinator for Hamirpur Lok Sabha Sandeep Sankhyan said Thakur had remained five-star MP during his term and he wasn’t even able to utilise MPLAD funds.
“Thakur had won previous elections as his father was the Chief Minister of the state but it isn’t the case this time around.
“There is a strong undercurrent against Thakur as he couldn’t implement or bring any big development project to the constituency and he remained limited to cricket only,” he told The Statesman.
Further, the entry of Suresh Chandel into the party has boosted our chances of wresting the seat from the BJP, he added.
Education Minister Suresh Bhardwaj, however, denied that Chandel’s entry into Congress would boost their chances and said he was out of electoral politics since 2007.
“Besides, Ram Lal Thakur’s dream of making it to Lok Sabha won’t realise as the party is faction-ridden, not only in Hamirpur parliamentary constituency but across Himachal Pradesh,” he told The Statesman.
In 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Anurag had defeated Congress candidate Rajinder Rana by a margin of over 98,000 votes and in 2009, he had defeated Narender Thakur of Congress by a margin of 72,000 votes.
In the 2008 by-poll, Thakur had defeated OP Rattan of Congress by a margin of over 1.70 lakh votes. The Lok Sabha seat had fallen vacant after sitting MP Prem Kumar Dhumal took over as the Chief Minister of Himachal as BJP won the 2007 assembly polls.
Hamirpur parliamentary constituency is the second biggest constituency in Himachal Pradesh in terms of voters, over 13.62 lakh, including 6.70 lakh women voters.
It is also the most urbanised area of the state and is termed as the education hub of Himachal Pradesh.