Shimla: With the announcement of candidates for Mandi Lok Sabha and three assembly constituencies by-elections, Congress has played safe by announcing popular faces on all seats, while BJP has surprised everyone by declaring candidates totally against the popular perception.

In Mandi Lok Sabha by-poll, Congress has declared its two-time MP Pratibha Singh, wife of veteran Congress leader and six-time CM Virbhadra Singh and also tried to encash the sympathy factor as well.

While on the contrary BJP has bet on political novice Khushal Singh. Being a home district of CM Jai Ram Thakur, BJP will put everything at stake to ensure victory.

However, Congress will also leave no stone unturned to wrench its traditional seat from the BJP.

Mandi by-election is also a battle of survival for Pratibha Singh. She had won the seat twice in 2004 and 2013 (by-election).

Mandi parliamentary is considered as a strong bastion of Congress party as out of 19 elections, Congress has won the seat 13 times, while BJP could win the seat 5 times and in 1977, Ganga Singh of Bharatiya Lok Dal had won the seat.

Interestingly, for BJP Maheshwar Singh had won the seat thrice (1989, 1998 and 1999) and even defeated Congress, veteran leaders, Pt. Sukh Ram, Kaul Singh Thakur and even Pratibha Singh from the Mandi segment.

Even in the 2009 election, Maheshwar Singh had narrowed the margin of votes with Congress stalwart Virbhadra Singh. Maheshwar Singh was also one of BJP’s claimant for the ticket. 

Congress has also played safe in Jubbal-Kotkhai, Fatehpur and Arki assembly constituencies.

From the Jubbal-Kotkhai segment, Congress has announced an established party leader Rohit Thakur. Rohit had won the seat in 2003 and 2012, however, in 2017 he lost to BJP’s Narinder Bragta by a thin margin of 1062 votes. On the other hand, BJP has surprised everyone by announcing Neelam Saraik from the Jubbal-Kotkhai segment. Party has ignored the candidature of Chetan Bragta. Chetan was campaigning for the last two months and even many cabinet ministers and even CM Jai Ram Thakur had attended political events in the segment with him.

“Party top leadership had earlier, asked me to prepare for the election and start campaigning,” Chetan said while addressing his supporter after denial of ticket.

He was considered as a party candidate for the by-elections, however, last-minute change has not only surprised everyone but also jeopardize the chances of the ruling party in the election from Jubbal-Kotkhai.    

From Fatehpur, Congress looking to ride on sympathy votes has fielded Bhawani Pathania, son of former party leader Sujan Singh Pathania from the constituency.

The seat was fallen vacant after the demise of Sujan Singh Pathania.

While BJP has fielded Baldev Thakur. Thakur had unsuccessfully contested the 2017 assembly election as an independent candidate and stood third. Kripal Parmar agitated over his exclusion, has an open front against the party and threatened to contest the election as an independent candidate.  

In the Arki constituency, Congress has reposed faith in Sanjay Awasthy, although he had faced defeat in the 2012 Assembly election unsuccessfully.

The fielding of Rattan Pal Singh by BJP, has former Arki MLA Govind Sharma turning rebel, who has now opened a front against the party and announced to contest poll as an independent candidate.

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Rahul Bhandari is Editor of TheNewsHimachal and has been part of the digital world for last 15 years.