The defeat of former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief minister and party’s CM face in Himachal Pradesh, Prem Kumar Dhumal in 2017 Assembly polls comes as a surprise, especially as BJP has made a strong come back in the hill state.
But for Congress nominee, Rajinder Rana, 51, who beat Dhumal, 73, in Sujanpur by a margin of 1919 votes, the victory was not ‘unexpected’.
“I was sure from day one that people of Sujanpur, with whom I have stood through thick and thin for last 16 years, will not let me down. When Dhumal was declared CM face of BJP, it gave me some anxious moments. But the feeling was short-lived and I got back to field confidently,” Rana told The Statesman in an interview.
Dhumal was asked to shift from Hamirpur to adjoining Sujanpur constituency by party high command this time. Sujanpur was, however, not altogether new to him, as it houses some parts of his original segment Bamson (before delimitation).
Rana is known for his humility and his great social connect with the grassroots.
Understood to be protégé of Dhumal, Rana had fallen apart in 2009, when he said, he was victimised by the then Dhumal government over a non-issue.
“I worked for Dhumal selflessly, but in lieu, they indulged in my character assassination as they were jealous of my increasing social influence in the area. I was hurt so I left Dhumal and the BJP,” he said.
Rana had contested the 2012 poll from Sujanpur as independent, defeating the nearest rival (Congress) by a margin of over 14,00o votes. He later resigned as MLA and contested against Dhumal’s son, Anurag Thakur in 2014 Parliament polls in Hamirpur and lost by 97,000 votes.
“I got 3.5 lakh votes, higher than any other Congress candidate in the state then. Anurag’s lead had come down by over 90,000 even the Modi wave,” he said.
He said the 2017 poll is most memorable. “I can never forget the love of people for me vis a vis the CM face. I was nothing in front of him.”
Rana deplores the propaganda that he won votes with monetary favours to people. “It’s not true. I have been associated with people of Sujanpur day to day. I help them wherever I can. They share pain and happiness with me and find me close to their heart,” Rana said.
“Paisa sab key pass hota hai…par apmey logo key dukh such mein khadey honey ka jazba hona chaiheya (Everybody has money. You need to have the capacity to stand with people in odds),” he said.
Rana said Dhumal’s campaign, mostly run by his sons, was built on personalised attacks, which people did not like. “People see your behaviour and language also.”
He said in Sujanpur, former CM Virbhadra Singh did much development in past five years on his demand.
“The BJP fared badly in Hamirpur district, getting only two out of five seats, despite CM face, for shortcomings in Dhumal’s functioning.”