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|September 21, 1999||
Old foe takes on old foe
Bharatiya Janata Party leader and former chief minister Shanta Kumar, seeking re-election from this Himachal Pradesh Lok Sabha constituency, is locked in a five-cornered contest.
His main opponent is state Congress president Sat Mahajan, whom he's taking on for the third time in a row. The others in the fray for the September 25 election are Samajwadi Party's HP unit chief Chaudhary Hardayal, Captain (retired) Partap Chaudhary of the Janata Dal (Secular) and Shakti Chand (Independent).
All of them had tried their luck earlier. While Chaudhary Hardayal lost the 1996 election, Captain Chaudhary and Chand were defeated in 1998.
This predominantly other backward class constituency is spread over 13 assembly segments in Kangra district and four in Chamba district.
The BJP is contesting in alliance with the Himachal Vikas Congress of Sukh Ram, which has not put up a candidate in Kangra. Both the BJP and Congress have committed votes. OBC voters, constituting about 25 per cent of the electorate, hold the scales.
Kumar and Mahajan are no strangers to the people. While Kumar is identified with this constituency, Mahajan, a senior political leader, also wields considerable influence. Kumar had defeated Mahajan in 1998 by 59,235 votes after losing by 37,524 votes in 1996.
The task before the Congress is not just to defeat an important BJP leader but to loosen that party's strong grip in the area too.
The BJP had hit the campaign trail much earlier than the Congress. It has been wooing womenfolk through mahila mandals. Women outnumber men and account for 474,564 of the 928,231 voters.
Buntings and party flags festoon major towns and big villages where vehicles fitted with loudspeakers blare out appeals to voters. The campaign centres around Kargil, Bofors, achievements/non-performance of the Central and state governments and Atal Bihari Vajpayee versus Sonia Gandhi.
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