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HP’s lower areas reject ‘personality cult’

Archana Phull | Shimla |

The merged areas of Himachal Pradesh have once again rejected ‘personality cult’, a phenomenon which is very much prevalent in upper areas of the hill state.

While none could take the politically alert folks of biggest Kangra district for granted as they have a history of defeating tall leader and former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief minister, Shanta Kumar twice in Assembly polls even after he rose to top chair in 1977, this time, a big debacle has come from Hamirpur.

The BJP ousted Congress from power by getting 44 out of 68 seats, but two-time CM, Prem Kumar Dhumal, who was declared CM face of BJP in the run-up to 2017 polls, lost to his own protégé, Rajender Rana of Congress in Sujanpur by a margin of 1919.

This was against expectations as the BJP had declared Dhumal as CM candidate after some initial hitches, going by his popularity. Dhumal was asked by the high command to shift his constituency from Hamirpur to Sujanpur to fight against Rana, which turned out to be a miscalculation.

“We will introspect the reasons,” an upset Dhumal could only say this after conceding the defeat.

While two-time CM Shanta Kumar, it is said, bore the brunt of people for his ‘plain speak’ and ‘strict approach’ in politics, Dhumal, people say, lost the poll more due to the grass root rapport of his opponent and his own over-confidence.

Dhumal apart, state BJP chief, Satpal Singh Satti, three-time MLA in a row, lost to Congress candidate Satpal Singh Raizada by 3,196 votes in Una. Former BJP minister, Ravinder Singh Ravi, who won five times consecutively since 1993 from Dehra in Kangra district was ousted by a novice, an independent, Hoshiar Singh by a margin of over 4000 votes in a triangular fight.

The trend of rejection of big faces was across the party lines.

In Kangra, a high profile senior minister, GS Bali, who had been winning Assembly poll from Nagrota since 1998 (four times) lost to Arun Kumar Kuka by 1000 votes, and another minister in Virbhadra cabinet, Sudhir Sharma (who secured consecutive three wins since 2003), Sudhir Sharma lost to former BJP minister, Krishen Kapoor in Dharamshala.

“People in merged areas of the state are always instrumental in changing the government because they vote on performance and attitude,” analyse political observers.

Virbhadra wins even outside home district

Compared with this, people in old Himachal stand rock solid with personalities.

Six-time Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who changed his constituency fourth time and went outside home district Shimla to contest from Arki in Solan in 2017 polls, has secured ninth consecutive win since 1983. He has earlier represented Jubbal Kotkhai, Rohroo and Shimla (Rural) in Shimla district.

Another former Congress CM, Thakur Ram Lal never lost an election in Jubbal Kotkhai, which he represented nine times before his death in 2002.