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|September 22, 1999||
Kargil gives BJP the edge in traditional recruiting ground
Sitting Member of Parliament Suresh Chandel, the Himachal Pradesh Bharatiya Janata Party chief, will take on Congress nominee Ram Lal Thakur, a member of the legislative assembly, in a seven-cornered contest on September 25 in this Lok Sabha constituency. This seat has taken on added dimensions because Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal hails from Hamirpur.
Others in the fray are Gian Chand Chaudhry of the Bahujan Samaj Party, Ajit Kumar Sharma of the Nationalist Congress Party and Gopi Chand, Yashpal and Prahalad Bhagat, both Independents.
In the last election, Chandel had defeated Major General (retired) Bikram Singh of the Congress by a margin of 77,909 votes.
The constituency comprises 17 assembly segments. In 1998, the BJP had taken the lead in 15 assembly segments. The party had secured absolute majority in Bilaspur and Hamirpur and had lost to the Congress in Dehra and Una.
Women, who are in a majority in this constituency, are at present busy with the harvesting season. They are attending various election meetings, but seem to be undecided yet about their choice. Last time, a majority of women had voted for the BJP.
Families of serving soldiers and ex-servicemen may also play a major role in the election this time. The activists of the BJP are highlighting Kargil, claiming the victory of the Indian troops as their own. They are optimistic that the soldiers and their families would vote for the party en mass.
While the BJP is mainly concentrating on the popularity of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the Kargil issue, the Congress is harping on price rise, unemployment, growing lawlessness and the failure of the BJP governments both at the Centre and in the state. They are also projecting the qualities of Sonia Gandhi, trying to convince voters that she is prime ministerial material.
Rajputs are in a majority in the constituency, but they appear undecided as both the BJP and the Congress candidates are of the same caste.
The Ghirath community and the Other Backward Castes are annoyed with both the parties for not accommodating them in the selection of candidates. Gian Chand Chaudhry of the BSP, who is also a Ghirath by caste, is mainly depending on the votes of that community.
Professor Narain Chand Prasher, former minister and senior Congress leader of the state who also belongs to the Ghirath community and was denied a party ticket, has started actively campaigning for the party nominee Ram Lal, especially in the Nadaun assembly segment of Hamirpur district.
Eventually, whatever the verdict, the victory margin may be very small due to the low voter turnout that is being anticipated.
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