Palampur- With the declaration of the Congress, BSP and BJP candidates for all 16 seats of Kangra district, a clear picture has started emerging.
Though the nominations have just started and despite the fact that all constituencies will witness multi-cornered contests due to the fielding of candidates by the congress, BJP and BSP including many independents, the main contest in almost all 16 seats will be between the BJP, BSP and the Congress.
The decision of BJP High Command not to project Shanta Kumar as Chief Minister has adversely affected the winning prospects of BJP candidates in many constituencies where BJP candidates were banking upon the stature of Shanta Kumar.
In Baijnath, sitting BJP MLA Dulo Ram, who was confidant of winning the election with the support of Mr Shanta Kumar, now he is facing strong challenge from Mr Sudhir Sharma, son of former minister Sant Ram as a major section of Brahamin voters which are in sizeable number in this constituency may not vote for him. Mr Suresh Kumar of BSP, who was earlier in the congress, also in the fray, being Brahamin by cast, he will damage the votes of congress candidate Mr Sudhir Sharma.
In Rajgir (Reserve), sitting BJP MLA, Atma Ram who is contesting his forth election will face Dr. Milkhi Ram Goma, who has represented the constituency for three terms. The absence of Mr. Shanta Kumar from the election arena will also ruin BJP prospectus here. Secondly Mr. Pritam Chand a close confident of Chief Minister Vir Bhadara Singh who had contested last election as independent candidate from this constituency, secured 7000 votes has decided not to contest the election and support congress candidates. This means this time these votes would go in favour of Mr. Goma. Besides, there is sympathy wave in favour of Mr. Goma, whom the voters have defeated thrice in 1993,1998 and 2003. The BSP is yet to decide its candidate.
In Sulah, Vipin Singh Parmar of BJP will face Mr. Jagjivan Paul of Congress, for the second time. In the 1998 elections, Mr Vipin Singh had defeated Mr Jagjivan Paul by a slender margin of 125 votes. In 2003 assembly election Mr. Pal defeated Vipan Parmar by margin of over 10000 votes. Mr Pal has merged as grass root leader in this constituency and in past five years he has visited every family. Besides, major development taken up by him has been completed in time bound plan which has given him much benefit. Since this assembly constituency was represented by Mr. Shanta Kumar four times, Vipan Parmar has hopes that visits of Shanta Kumar will change election scenario and mood of voters. The large number of OBC voters in this constituency will play a significant role in the election as majority of OBC may side with congress.
In Thural, sitting BJP MLA and former Minister of State Ravinder Singh Ravi is being challenged by Mr. Sanjay Rana a blue eyed boy of PCC President Viplaov Thakur, who is for the first time in the fray. Mr. Rana a youth congress leader has secured ticket at behest of Party High command against the wishes of Mr.Vir Bhadara Singh. Mr J.C. Sapehia who had contested the last election in congress ticket in 2003 , is contesting as independent candidate weakening the winning prospectus of Congress. Mr. Sapheia has his loyalty with Vir Bhadara Singh . Traditionally Thural remained a strong hold of BJP. Except Mrs. Chandresh Kumari, none of congress candidates had won this seat in past.
In Palampur the electoral scene is quite confusing as at the last moment the BJP has fielded Mr. Parveen Sharma as its candidate. Earlier Mr. Shanta Kumar, former Chief Minister and BJP heavy weight was keen to contest assembly election from Palampur, but with the projecting of Mr. Prem Kumar Dhumal as Chief Minister, Shanta has decided not to contest the assembly election. Mr Parveen Sharma was defeated by Mr. Brij Behari Lal Butail, a veteran congress leader by a margin of 6000 votes in the 2003 assembly election. Mr. Sharma has neat and clean image in the area but has little resource to complete with Mr. Butail who is richest person of the region, and has no dearth of funds and a sitting MLA for the past fifteen years.
He has nursed the constituency very well in past fifteen years. All roads in this constituency are metalled, every house has potable drinking water, every village is electrified, every village has primary school and Bal Bari Kendra. In rural areas, Mr Butail has strong influence. All these factors go the the credit of Mr. Butail. Congress party after Nagrota Bagwan consider this assembly segment as safest one to win. Mr Parveen Sharma is blindly dependant on Mr Shanta Kumar, who command much hold in the constituency being his home constituency. If Shanta Kumar works hard here he can tilt the scale.
A senior journalist from Palampur.