PALAMPUR : Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are likely to face a stiff competition in this significant constituency. Over eighty percent rural voters comprising 30 panchayats will play a crucial role this time.
While BJPâ€™s official nominee, Parveen Sharma faces direct challenge from congress stalwart Brij Behari Lal Butial who is contesting his seventh election from this constituency, Palampur always remained a strong hold of the congress.
The fact is that BJP has won this seat once in past twenty-five years when BJP candidate Mr. Shnata Kumar was projected Chief Minister of the state by BJP high command in 1990. This seat which was won by Congress candidate Mr. Brij Behari lal Butail in 1982, 1985, 1993, 1998 and 2003 assembly elections. Butail being soft spoken and having clean image has made deep inroads in this constituency and it is not easy for the BJP to defeat him. Even in 1998, when BJP wave was in full swing in Kangra he managed to win this seat.
Earlier senior BJP leader Mr. Shanta Kumar has expressed his desire to contest the assembly election from Palampur but when BJP High Command decided to project Prem Kumar Dhumal as Chief Ministerial candidate, he refused to contest the assembly election at the last moment. Now Shanta Kumar has fielded Mr. Parveen Sharma, his close confident. Mr. Shrama had also contested the assembly election from Palampur in 2003 assembly election but was defeated by Mr. Butail by a margin over 5000 votes.
To get elected Mr. Parveen Sharma from Palampur has become a prestige issue for Shanta Kumar being his home constituency. Besides he is also facing internal party challenges to prove his worth within the party. Shanta Kumar is working day and night for the success of Parveen Sharma. He has involved even grass root workers in the election campaign. In past two days Mr. Shanta Kumar addressed over twenty election meetings in Palampur constituency in favor of Parveen Sharma.
Mr. Brij Behari Lal Butial on the other hand considers large-scale development activities brought about in the area as his trump card. He says that whatever development has taken place in Palampur it was in congress in regime because of his efforts. Giving credit of development to Chief Minister Vir Bhadara Singh, he asserts that whenever he raised the problem of Palampur, Chief Minister always helped him. Expansion of Palampur hospital building, construction of Degree College complex and Mini Sachivalaya in the town are his major achievements of last five years. Blaming the BJP of having ignored the region, he expresses surprise that the same people are in the fray and they now talk of ignoring development and describing the Congress as a divided house.