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HomeHimachal PradeshSympathy strategy to the fore in Mandi, Fatehpur

Sympathy strategy to the fore in Mandi, Fatehpur

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Congress throws in trump cards

Sourabh Sood 
Mandi/ Dharamshala 

As the countdown to the  Himachal by-elections, spread over 17 Assembly constituencies and 5 districts, gains momentum, attention has zeroed in to the hot seat of these elections, Mandi, for more reasons than one. In a tactical move by the opposition, the Congress party nominated  wife of Himachal’s most popular leader and six time chief minister, late Virbhadra Singh’s wife, Pratibha Singh as its contender for the lone Lok Sabha seat in the state. The opposition has thrown in its trump card riding high on the sympathy factor post Virbhadra Singh’s demise. Moreover, Pratibha Singh has also been a two time MP from Mandi, which is also the home district of Chief Minister Jairam Thakur. Therefore, the stakes in Mandi are rather high particularly for the BJP, which will have to fight hard to ward off a formidable opponent to salvage its prestige in the constituency and the state at large. The strategy of the Congress has also prompted Vikramaditya, MLA and son of Virbhadra and Pratibha Singh to appeal to the public on social media through a catchy tagline “We seek tributes, not votes”, as soon as Pratibha Singh’s candidature was announced.

Virbhadra elected MP thrice, Pratibha twice

While Virbhadra Singh wielded tremendous influence in Mandi and was elected MP from this seat thrice, in 1971,1980 and 2009, Pratibha Singh won twice from Mandi in the Lok Sabha  by elections in 2004 and 2013. However, she was defeated by BJP candidate Ram Swaroop Sharma in 2014 during the Modi wave. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress fielded Ashray Sharma, who was again defeated by Ram Swaroop Sharma by a record margin of more than 4.5 lakh votes. Ram Swaroop Sharma’s untimely death then paved the way for by-elections to the Mandi Lok Sabha constituency, with Pratibha Singh entering the fray. The contest in Mandi will also be a personal tussle for Chief Minister Jairam Thakur whose credibility will be at stake within the BJP.

Bhavani Singh Pathania, a trusted name in Fatehpur

In the Fatehpur assembly seat of Kangra district, the Congress has again gambled to garner public sympathy by nominating Bhavani Singh Pathania, a 7 time MLA and son of former minister, late Sujan Singh Pathania. Such was Sujan Singh’s popularity amongst the masses in Fatehpur that the BJP has been left high and dry craving for victory in this constituency since 2009. Bhavani Singh, who decided to take charge of the reins left behind by his father, leaving behind a glittering corporate world in Mumbai, has had to face  stiff opposition from old horses within his own party in the name of nepotism. Nevertheless, he has planted himself firmly amongst the masses and continues to remain popular. The BJP, on the other hand, currently finds itself on a sticky wicket with several contenders for this seat. These by-polls may therefore also see both parties fighting rebels from within, until the right choice is made to seal their fates. 

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