Constituency Watch: Congress looks to makes inroads in BJP’s Hamirpur bastion - Hindustan Times
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Constituency Watch: Congress looks to makes inroads in BJP’s Hamirpur bastion

By, Dharamshala
May 15, 2024 01:16 PM IST

Union minister and sitting MP Anurag Thakur has won the elections on the last three occasions and Congress has entrusted former Una MLA Satpal Raizada to challenge his dominance on the seat

An electoral showdown looms for Hamirpur parliamentary constituency, where the Congress, buoyed by the presence of chief minister (CM) Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, looks to make in a seat that has long been a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) bastion.

Himachal CM Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu and deputy CM Mukesh Agnirhotri, both of whom represent assembly segments falling under Hamirpur Lok Sabha seat, are spearheading Congress’ campaign. (HT FIle)
Himachal CM Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu and deputy CM Mukesh Agnirhotri, both of whom represent assembly segments falling under Hamirpur Lok Sabha seat, are spearheading Congress’ campaign. (HT FIle)

Union minister and sitting MP Anurag Thakur has won the elections on the last four occasions and Congress has entrusted former Una MLA Satpal Raizada to challenge his dominance on the seat.

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Raizada shares close association with Sukhu, for whom the seat will prove to be a battle of prestige given that his home assembly segment of Nadaun also falls under the Hamirpur Lok Sabha constituency. In fact, deputy CM Mukesh Agnihotri, who hails from Haroli, also traces his roots back to the region.

Taking on the BJP, however, will be a mammoth task as the party looks to maintain its firm hold over Hamirpur. Prior to Anurag, his father and former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal had secured victory from the seat the first time in 1989 and again in 2007. Since then, the Congress has only managed to wrest the seat once, with party candidate Vikram Singh winning in 1996.

The 2019 election had seen Anurag clinch the win, defeating Congress’ Ram Lal Thakur with a margin of nearly four lakh votes. He had also posted a landslide victory in 2014, winning by a margin of 4.4 lakh votes against Rajinder Singh Rana.

Satpal Raizada, meanwhile, tasted electoral success in 2017, when he defeated BJP stalwart Satpal Singh Satti from the Una assembly segment by a margin of 3,196 votes. However, he lost to the same opponent in the 2022 assembly elections by a slender margin of 1,736 votes.

(HT)
(HT)

Prestige at stake

On June 1, Hamirpur will witness a high-stakes contest not only for the parliamentary constituency, but also four of the six assembly constituencies for which by-polls were scheduled — Sujanpur, Gagret, Barsar and Kutlehar.

Sukhu and Agnihotri, who represent Nadaun and Haroli constituencies respectively, have put their own at stake as they look to put in a good show to not only try and wrest a Lok Sabha seat, but also ensure the stability of the state government by winning the assembly polls.

Besides Anurag, they face another formidable opponent in the form of BJP’s national president, JP Nadda, a native of Bilaspur. The leader has represented the Bilaspur (Sadar) assembly seat, which falls under the Hamirpur parliamentary constituency, thrice.

Decade of devp or unmet promises?

While the BJP has centred its latest campaign primarily on Prime Minister Modi’s decade-long tenure, the Congress has taken a different approach, launching an aggressive campaign targeting Anurag for allegedly failing to deliver on his promises to the electorate.

The BJP has invoked projects like the establishment of the Bulk Drug Park in Una and the AIIMS in Bilaspur. Anurag, in turn, highlights the developmental projects undertaken in his constituency in recent years — the introduction of Himachal’s first Vande Bharat train from Una and the implementation of mobile medical units, among others.

CM Sukhu, meanwhile, has targetted the six former Congress MLAs who voted against the party during Rajya Sabha polls in February before joining the BJP, accusing the saffron party of introducing “horse-trading” in Himachal.

He has also emphasised on the state government’s projects like the Jol Sappar Medical College, accusing Anurag of taking false credit.

With Hamirpur also sending a considerable number of soldiers to Indian defence forces, the belt has a huge number of ex-servicemen. The Congress has then cornered the BJP over the Agniveer scheme, which they say is detrimental to the future of youth.

The BJP, meanwhile, has been trying to sell its efforts to implement One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme.

Besides, crucial infrastructure projects still pending completion are also among the major issues dominating the election. The construction of the PGI Satellite Hospital in Una district, development of the Central University campus in Dehra a decade after its establishment are among the issues that are likely to find mention in election speeches as campaigning for both sides reaches a crescendo.

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