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Dharamshala, Pachhad bypolls litmus test for BJP, Congress

September 22, 2019 05:32 AM


Dharamshala, Pachhad bypolls litmus test for BJP, Congress
Tough Turf Dharamshala seat has remained a stronghold of saffron party while Pachhad was a Congress citadel before the BJP breached the fortress in 2012 assembly elections
Naresh Kumar

Dharamshala : The bypolls to Dharamshala and Pachhad assembly constituencies, date of which was announced on Saturday, would be a litmus test for both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and opposition Congress.

For the BJP, it would be a challenge to continue its winning streak, while Congress will be looking for a revival after drubbing in the Lok Sabha elections held earlier this year.

Dharamshala and Pachhad seats fell vacant after Kishan Kapoor and Suresh Kashyap were elected to the Lower House of Parliament in May.

The byelections for these two seats will be held on October 21, along with Haryana and Maharashtra assembly polls.Dharamshala seat has remained a stronghold of the saffron party while Pachhad was a Congress citadel before the BJP breached the fortress in 2012 assembly elections.

Ticket Tussle

The Congress seems to be almost certain about its choice, but there is a tough race for ticket in the BJP.

From Dharamshala, Congress is likely to field All India Congress Committee (AICC) secretary Sudhir Sharma, though the name of sitting Dharamshala mayor Devinder Jaggi is also doing rounds.

From Pachhad, it is former assembly speaker Gangu Ram Musafir.

However, the situation is exactly opposite in the BJP. From Dharamshala, at least half a dozen leaders are lobbying hard for the ticket.

Prominent faces in the race are Umesh Dutt, a former ABVP national general secretary and Sanjay Sharma, who was also a student leader in his college days and is currently a director in the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association.Others are Rakesh Sharma, current state BJP media co-incharge and Rajeev Bhardwaj, chairman of Kangra Cooperative Bank.

Sachin Sharma, an RSS functionary and Vishal Nehria, a local Yuva Morcha leader — who belongs to dominant Gaddi community — are also vying for the ticket. During the 2017 assembly polls, the BJP had allotted ticket to Dutt from Dharamshala assembly segment, but backstepped after Kishan Kapoor threatened to contest as an Independent. While Sanjay Sharma is said to be “close” to the BJP working president and former Union minister Jagat Prakash Nadda, Rakesh Sharma and Rajeev Bhardwaj have the “backing” of veteran leader Shanta Kumar.

From Pachhad, Ashish Sikta, a former ABVP warhorse, and Dyal Pyari, a sitting zila parishad member, are among the front runners.

Poll planks

While the BJP is looking to cash in on achievements of central and state governments, the Congress would focus on local issues, particularly the alleged dilution of Section 118 of the HP Tenancy and Land Reforms Act, and corruption in the government. The saffron party is also banking on the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A of the Constitution to garner votes.

Widening cracks

What makes this election more tough is the infighting within both the ruling and opposition parties, particularly in Kangra district

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