Kullu – Manali, one of the largest valleys in Himachal Pradesh, has four assembly constituencies Manali, Kullu, Banjar and Anni. BJP has the problem of rebels in all the four seats in district Kullu and Congress has a rebel candidate in Anni, a reserved seat, and AAP and CPI(M) are also contesting here.
While widening of national highways is one of project that people in all constituencies are concerned with, families displaced for the land acquisition during the 2012-17 Congress rule are still up in arms against both the then Congress government and the subsequent BJP rule. Hundreds of displaced families have been demanding better compensation and the campaign have also garnered support.
A Sangrash Samiti was also formed by the BJP to address the grievances of the locals but the BJP leader who headed the panel, Mahendra Thakur, is now a rebel candidate from Manali. Residents feel sorry about that multiple road projects that were started much before are yet to see the light of the day.
Another, Bhubho Jot Tunnel, to connect Kullu with Kangra, was announced two decades ago and Jalori Jot Tunnel, to connect Kullu towards Kangra, also proposed two decades ago, have both remained non-starters. Similarly, Bijli Mahadev ropeway in Bhunter, Kullu, to reach the famous Bijli Mahadev temple, was announced around a decade ago, is yet to be started.
In June 2020, the project was pegged at Rs 150 crore and in May 2022, when the project got all final approvals, its cost was mentioned as Rs 200 crore. Such incomplete projects are also a major bone of contention for the people here.
In the fight, BJP – Narottam Thakur, INC – Sunder Singh Thakur, AAP – Sher Singh Shera Negi, CPI (M) – Hotam Singh Sonkhla and Independent Ram Singh Thakur. Congress’ Sunder Thakur had lost the elections in 2012 but in 2017, despite a BJP wave, he defeated BJP senior leader Maheshwar Singh Thakur of BJP.
In the middle of high drama, BJP named Narottam Thakur as its candidate. While initially, BJP was inclined towards Maheshwar, his son Hiteshwar Singh Thakur filed papers as an independent from Banjar constituency which significantly spoiled Maheshwar chances as he also started gather support for his son.
Subsequently, on the last day of withdrawal of nominations, BJP found its nominee in Narrotam Thakur, a government teacher, who took premature retirement to join politics. Maheshwar finally withdrew his papers and Narottam became the parachute candidate.
In the middle of this disaster, Ram Singh Thakur, a BJP rebel candidate in the fray. He had contested on BJP ticket in 2012 but had lost the elections. Following which, he was not given a ticket in 2017. While the party pacified him last time, this time, he chose independent.
From Manali sitting MLA: Govind Singh Thakur (BJP) in the fray and from INC Bhuvneshwar Gaur, AAP Anurag Prarthi and Independent Mahendra Thakur giving tough fights.
BJP has a rebel candidate in Mahendra Singh Thakur, who was leading the agitation of displaced people due to four-lining of highway projects. For being in the forefront of the movement, BJP denied him a ticket. While AAP candidate Anurag Prarthi switched from Congress, the BJP decided to go with sitting MLA Govind Singh Thakur. Congress candidate is Bhuvneshwar Gaur, son of former state agriculture Sitting MLA: Surendar Shourie
In the fray from Banjar BJP: Surendar Shourie, INC Khimi Ram, AAP Neeraj Saini and an Independent Hiteshwar Thakur.
A three-time zila parishad member and son of BJP leader Maheshwar Singh Thakur, Hiteshwar Singh Thakur is contesting as an independent candidate this time. Hiteshwar’s wife, Vibha Singh, is the independent zila parishad member as the ward got reserved for women. Though the BJP trusted its sitting MLA, Congress gave the ticket to turncoat Khimi Ram who was a BJP MLA in 2003 and 2007.
From Anni sitting MLA Kishori Lal (BJP) in the fray with BJP candidate Lokendra Kumar, INC Bansi Lal Kaushal ,AAP Dr Inder Paul, CPI(M) Devki Nand ,Independent: Kishori Lal and Independent Paras Ram.
Sitting BJP MLA Kishori Lal is now a rebel candidate and is contesting as an independent and Congress’s Paras Ram is another rebel contesting as independent. Paras Ram had contested in 2017 from Congress ticket and had got defeated. Though BJP has fielded Lokendra Kumar but sources said that the local BJP unit is unhappy with this decision.
Congress too is facing opposition for their candidate Bansi Lal Kaushal. Many leaders of the local Congress unit are campaigning for Paras Ram and six party members were even suspended for this.
Sanjay Dutta, an engineer by qualification but is a journalist by choice.
He has worked for the premier new agency Press Trust of India and leading English daily Indian Express.
With more than a decade of experience, he has been highlighting issues related to environment, tourism and other aspects affecting mountain ecology.
Sanjay Dutta lives in a village close to Manali in Kullu valley of Himachal.