It’s testing time from NCP, Trinamool in Himachal polls

Shimla: It’ll be testing time for debutants Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Trinamool Congress in the Nov 4 Himachal Pradesh assembly polls as they attempt to expand their base by foraying into unknown territory.

Despite the hill state being dominated mainly by the Congress and the BJP, the two parties have decided to field candidates, though not for all 68 seats.

“It’s just a step to take up the issues of corruption and the price rise and to expose the anti-people policies of the central government,” said Trinamool Rajya Sabha member K.D. Singh over the telephone.

He said that participation in the assembly polls was part of the party’s resolve to express solidarity with the “aam admi”, who has been hit hard by the Congress-led UPA government at the centre.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool has fielded 28 candidates, most of them Congress dissidents.

TMC’s two prominent faces – Pramod Sharma, an associate professor at Himachal Pradesh University in Shimla, and O.P. Rattan, a former Congress legislator – are posing a challenge, mainly to the Congress. They are contesting for the Theog and Una seats respectively.

“It’s Didi’s (Banerjee’s) ambition to mark her presence in other states after unseating the decades-old Communist government in West Bengal. After marking her presence in the hill states of Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur, she is now trying to trudge another hill state with rubber sandals,” a political observer said.

He said the recent rise of the Marxists in the hill state is intriguing Banerjee the most.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), which has fielded 22 candidates with its partner the CPI, had scripted history by winning the top posts of the Shimla Municipal Corporation, one of the country’s oldest civic bodies, in May. Himachal Pradesh is also emerging as one of the fastest growing areas for the CPI-M’s youth wing, the Students Federation of India (SFI).

Banerjee will be touring the hill state after the Oct 20-24 Durga Puja.

Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar’s NCP is also eyeing a foothold in the hills.

The party has fielded candidates for only 12 assembly segments, with one of its prominent faces being former assembly speaker and BJP rebel Radha Rama Shastri. He is contesting from the Shimla (Urban) constituency.

“Initially we had planned to field candidates for all seats. But we then opted for only those leaders who have a good image and better chances of winning,” Shastri said.

“This poll is just a prelude to the main poll (2014 parliamentary elections). By that time, we will be in a position to build our base in the state,” he added.

Pawar, his daughter and Rajya Sabha MP Supriya Sule, Heavy Industries Minister Praful Patel and Tariq Anwar, also a Rajya Sabha MP, are scheduled to tour the state next week.

As many as 4.59 million voters will cast their ballots Nov 4 at 7,253 polling stations across Himachal Pradesh. The votes will be counted Dec 20, after the Gujarat assembly polls are over.


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