Politically aware voters in biggest and developed Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh always keep the two main political parties, Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), on toes.
Congress and BJP have been making it to power alternatively in Himachal over last three decades with Kangra a key factor in deciding who’s going to win.
What adds to the ‘political size’ of Kangra is that the party that wins in Kangra forms the government in the state.
Himachal Pradesh has 12 districts, out of which Kangra houses one fourth of the population of state. Out of 68 Assembly segments, it had 16 in the past.
The constituencies here were, however, reduced to 15 in delimitation (implemented in 2012 polls). Mandi district is the second biggest with 10 Assembly segments and Shimla third with eight segments.
First non-Congress chief minister of state, Shanta Kumar (who headed the Janata Party government in 1977 in Himachal) hails from Palampur in Kangra.
But that’s not enough a reason for the electorate here to have one political leaning.
Similarly, the Congress government in 2005 decided to have another Assembly building in Dharamshala in Kangra for winter session of state Assembly every year- a practice that none has dared to abolish therein.
Previous to this in 1995, the then Congress government had started the winter move – wherein the CM would stay ion Kangra in winter months to facilitate people of lower area meet him. It too continues till today.
But nothing worked even after that. In 1998 polls, the Congress and BJP got 31 seats each, but in Kangra, Congress reduced from 12 in 1993 to four in 1998. In 2007, Congress not only lost power to BJP, but faced defeat even on Dharamshala Assembly seat, getting only six seats in Kangra against 11 in 2003 poll.
Kangra is nobody’s stronghold and the people here have been sending the poll figures topsy turvy for ruling party every time that keeps the fingers of any government crossed.
“We have done a lot of development in Kangra district this time and the response among people is good. We will definitely win maximum seats here,” claimed Chief Minister, Virbhadra Singh.
The Congress men in Kangra also draw strength from rebellion in BJP in some constituencies, along with missing Modi factor, that goes to their party’s advantage.
Contrary to it, the BJP workers in Kangra are banking on history based on anti-incumbency against the state government.
“The district also suffered much in Congress rule due to fight for supremacy between Congress ministers in Kangra- especially GS Bali (Nagrota) and Sudhir Sharma (Dharamshala) and people were well aware of it,” the BJP men said.
In 2012 Assembly elections, the overconfidence of then BJP government that it may repeat in Himachal even without doing well in Kangra proved dear.
The BJP was ousted from power with 26 seats in the state, with just three from Kangra district against nine in 2007 polls.