Amid all-out efforts by Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party to secure a win in bypolls in Dharamshala assembly segment, the caste equations seem to be weighing heavy on both parties with Gaddi candidates in fray in poll battle.
But the rebellion of BJP leader Rakesh Chaudhary, an OBC leader who is contesting bypolls as an independent candidate, is giving both the party scare ahead of voting on 21 October.
The OBC community has 25 percent vote share in Dharamshala, followed by 15 percent Gaddi vote and rest belongs to Rajput, Brahmin and other castes.
Though the fight in Dharamshala assembly segment is being considered between Congress’ Vijay Inder Karan and BJP’s Ashish Nehria, Chaudhary’s candidature can create problems for both the parties if he succeeds in uniting OBC vote bank in his favour.
Congress and BJP, in order to curtail the threat of division of OBC votes, had organized rallies in the community dominated areas with Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and leader of opposition Mukesh Agnihotri to trying to woo the voters.
Apart from this, there was the sentiment of resentment among voters of other castes as both the parties had fielded Gaddi candidates and many of them questioning the choice of candidates.
“There is resentment among locals as candidates from other castes were ignored to suit caste equations,” Narender Thakur, a local said.
This resentment has led to voters of other castes to keep their cards close themselves while the Congress and BJP preparing strategy to woo the voters.
BJP is trying to woo Rajput voters with the rallies of Jai Ram Thakur and former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal while former MP Shanta Kumar will be holding a detailed campaign in constituency to turn Brahmin votes in their favour.
Congress, on the other hand, has fielded Asha Kumari and Rajender Rana to convert Rajpur voters towards party candidate while Mukesh Agnihotri and former Cabinet Sudhir Sharma would field to woo Brahmin voters.
Though the silence of Sharma and his distance from Congress party’s election campaign had created suspense within the party, it remains to be seen whether the party would be able to consolidate Brahmin vote bank in their favour or not.
Chaudhary, on the other hand, is appealing to OBC voters to unite in his favour and in addition, he was preparing for bypolls after the victory of Kishan Kapoor in Lok Sabha polls as he was quite hopeful of getting ticket from BJP.
In the poll campaigns, the BJP is banking on the fame of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and policy decisions of Centre as well state government.
The ruling party leaders including Chief Minister are raking up the issue of abolition of Article 370 from Jammu Kashmir which as per them had paved way for ‘One Nation, One Constitution.
While Congress is raking up the issue of lack of development projects and failure to carry out development works in Dharamshala during the previous Congress regime.
Congress leaders were alleging that the BJP government has failed to further carry out works under Smart City project or setup A tulip garden under Asian Development Bank funding and Central University.