Facing his old rival, sitting BJP MLA Vijay Agnihotri in a six-cornered contest, Himachal Pradesh Congress chief Sukhvinder Singh Sukkhu is leaving no stone unturned to avenge his 2012 poll defeat from the Nadaun Assembly constituency in Hamirpur district. Agnihotri had defeated Sukkhu by a margin of 6,750 votes in the last election. The veteran Congress leader is concentrating on door-to- door campaigns to woo the voters. He has kept himself confined to Nadaun and is banking upon the Ghirath votes and women voters to come up trumps in the November 9 Assembly polls. There are 86,814 votes — 42,180 male, 42,868 female and 1,766 service voters — in the constituency, where the polling percentage is usually high. With the declaration of Prem Kumar Dhumal’s name as the chief ministerial face, the prospects of the BJP candidates have received a boost in all the five constituencies of Hamirpur district and Nadaun is no exception. As the animosity between Sukkhu and Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh is no secret, the supporters of the latter, however, are indifferent towards Sukkhu’s poll prospects. Sukkhu has been visiting one village after the other in a bid to woo the voters. He has been telling the people what he and the Congress have done for the constituency. He is ably assisted by his wife, Kamlesh Kumari, who is also taking a group of women around in the constituency, seeking votes in favour of her husband and the party.
In the 2012 Assembly polls, Sukkhu had secured 24,555 votes as against the 31,305 votes of BJP’s Agnihotri and a heavy polling of 78.37 per cent was recorded in Nadaun. No top leader of the Congress party except Anand Sharma, who was present when Sukkhu filed his nomination, has campaigned so far in this constituency. On the other hand, Dhumal has already addressed public meetings to garner support for Agnihotri, but Zila Parishad member Lekh Raj Sharma, a BJP rebel, is also in the fray, adding to the saffron party’s discomfort. Known for his good nature, Sharma has done a lot for the poor people of the constituency, including extending financial help to them for their daughters’ marriages and wards’ education. He is likely to cut into the BJP votes and the leaders of the saffron outfit are trying to persuade his supporters to vote for the party nominee.
Meanwhile, the OBC voters in the constituency are keeping the candidates guessing. Both Sukkhu and Agnihotri are banking on the Rajput and Brahmin votes, even though both the communities are divided on political lines. The other candidates in the fray are Ravi Parkash (BSP) and Prithi Chand Sharma and Ranjeet Singh (both Independents).