New Delhi – In a strategic move, the Congress high command has announced Kamlesh Thakur, wife of Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, as the candidate for the by-election in the Dehra assembly constituency. Sources indicate that Kamlesh Thakur emerged as the frontrunner in the party’s three internal surveys, thanks in part to her strong local ties, with her maternal home located in Dehra.

Dehra, a constituency under the Chief Minister’s home parliamentary area of Hamirpur but situated in Kangra district, has been a challenging seat for the Congress. The party has faced a 25-year losing streak in this region. Since its establishment in 2012, following the re-demarcation that dissolved the Thural seat, Congress has struggled to secure a victory here. Historically, even when Dehra was part of the Jawalamukhi assembly constituency, the party consistently faced defeats.

The Congress’s latest strategy aims to leverage the “women factor” and the implementation of a new policy guaranteeing Rs 1500 per month, hoping to appeal to voters. This approach previously saw success in the Lahaul Spiti by-election, where a woman candidate helped the party secure a win.

Chief Minister Sukhu’s influence and Kamlesh Thakur’s local connections are seen as critical assets in this electoral battle. Dehra has been under the control of independent candidate Hoshiar Singh, who has won two consecutive by-elections. To prevent a third consecutive win by Singh, Congress conducted thorough internal surveys, which showed Kamlesh Thakur as the preferred candidate.

The Dehra seat’s complex history of factionalism within the Congress has been a significant factor in its repeated defeats. In the 2022 assembly elections, Dr Rajesh Sharma lost, and in 2017, former state president of Congress and MP Viplav Thakur garnered only 8,289 votes. Earlier, in 2012, Congress candidate Rajendra Singh Rana placed third, even behind an independent candidate, Yograj.

In a bold new experiment, the Congress is betting on Kamlesh Thakur to break the long-standing losing streak and reclaim Dehra. This decision also comes amidst Dr Rajesh Sharma’s premature campaigning efforts in the constituency, showcasing the party’s pivot towards a fresh and impactful candidacy in Kamlesh Thakur.