Shimla: Opposing their own, BJP faces a critical challenge in Hamirpur where on trial is not just the legitimacy of Prem Kumar Dhumalâ€™s second term as chief minister but also the rise of his son Anurag Thakur in state politics.
A year ago, green horn Anurag had trounced veteran congressman OP Rattan by a record margin of 1,74,666 votes to mark a triumphant entry into parliament.
This May, he faces Narinder Thakur, son of late Jagdev Chand, who along with old guard Shanta Kumar and Kishori Lal of Chamba had laid the foundations for the party to break congress’s stranglehold in the state in 1977 elections.
Anurag, among his achievements counts, â€œin my short 9 months tenure in the Lok Sabha, I have raised pertinent questions, secured extension of Jan Shatabdi express train to Una, got the Bhanupali-Bilaspur rail line approved and advocated the Leh rail line project.â€
The seat has become a BJP bastion as the party has won the seat five times in a row in March 1998, October 1999, May 2004, June 2007 and May 2008.
Unable to match the strength of the saffron brigade here, congress inducted Narinder Thakur into the party seven months ago and have put him up as their candidate to challenge Dhumal and Anurag on home turf.
Initially Narinderâ€™s candidature faced stiff resistance from older congressman who considered that too much importance was being given to new member who only recently had severed links with his old party. On the surface, though congress has put up a united front but internal bickering remain.
On joining congress Narinder turned the heat on his former party saying, â€œBJP has stopped functioning in a democratic manner and is getting sucked into dynastic politics.â€
By constantly questioning the riches and assets of Dhumal family, the former BJP man, to the discomfort of his erstwhile party, does not fail to harp upon his father Jagdev Chandâ€™s principals in politics.
While Narinder has washed his hands off a party that his father nourished all his life, interestingly, his sister-in-law Urmil Thakur is a sitting BJP legislator.
Turning the contest into a multi-cornered one, Bhaujan Samaj Party (BSP), who hold a clout in the region, have pitched in with a upper caste candidate Mangat Ram Sharma. The BSP candidate has upset the caste combinations for the two contesting Thakurâ€™s. Shiv Sena, Rashtriya Raksha Dal, Rashtrawadi Sena and two independent candidates are also in the fray for the seat.
Over the last five years, Hamirpur has probably faced more polls than any other seat in the country. Keeping the December 2007 general assembly poll out, Hamirpur faces the fourth parliamentary poll in five years. The previous three were all won by BJP.
In 2004, Suresh Chandel won the seat for BJP defeating Ram Lal Thakur of congress. Caught in the â€˜cash for question webâ€™, parliament unseated Chandel.
In the ensuing by-poll, Dhumal led the charge and won the seat for the party June 2007, defeating congressman Ram Lal Thakur by over 80,000 votes.
By December 2007, Dhumal contested the assembly poll and on being elected chief minister, the seat fell vacant again.
The May 2008 by-election launched Anurag Thakur into politics as BJP affirmed its hold over the region.
There are 11,87,704 voters on the roll in Hamirpur of which 591075 are women. Voter fatigue had led to a low turnout in the May 2008 elections, even though BJP thumped home with a record margin victory then.