Political temperatures are soaring in the cool climes of Sujanpur where BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal is pitted against his protege Rajender Rana of the Congress, who is banking on the works undertaken by him. In a bid to capture power, the BJP is going full throttle before the campaign ends on November 7. Like chief minister Virbhadra Singh, Dhumal has been criss-crossing the state for canvassing and his campaign here is being mainly handled by his younger son Arun Dhumal while elder son and Hamirpur MP Anurag Thakur have also canvassed here. At the party office here, Anurag Thakur’s aide Anupam Lakhanpal is a busy man. He coordinates with party leaders and strategists to draw up campaign schedule and plans for the day’s campaigning. In a constituency of nearly 64,000 voters of which 15-20 per cent comprise serving and retired defence personnel, others are agriculturists and have small businesses, the party is making every attempt to reach out to each section of society. “Ab Ki Bar Sujanpur Se Sarkar” and “Ab ki bar 60 kay par” are the hoardings which greet travelers on the pine tree lined route from Sujanpur to Hamirpur. BJP supporters feel that naming Dhumal as the chief ministerial candidate has given a boost to the party’s prospects in entire Himachal as he wields considerable clout. They also feel Sujanpur will immensely benefit if the BJP wins from the seat. However, Congress supporters say that Rana, who won the 2012 polls with a big margin of over 14,000 votes as an Independent before switching over to Congress later, is a no pushover.
Criss-crossing the state, Dhumal in his poll rallies targets the Congress over alleged corruption, deterioration of law and order, flourishing of land, forest and drug mafia and financial mismanagement. He promises to take the “Devbhoomi” (land of Gods) as Himachal is called to new heights if the BJP wins the polls. Appealing to the people to help realise BJP’s “Mission 60 plus” seats in the 68-member HP Assembly, Dhumal tells them that like a train needs a double engine to go up the hill, “for accelerated development in the state also double engine (Modi govt at the Centre and the BJP govt in state) is needed”. “Improving law and order situation in the state with focus on women’s safety will be among the immediate priorities of the BJP if I captur power,” he says while pointing out that, “the Gudiya rape and murder case has shamed the state”. During his interactions with the media, Dhumal does not feel there was any delay in naming him as the chief ministerial candidate by his party. “I don’t think so, appropriate decision was taken at an appropriate time. When I became the chief minister for the first time in 1998, I recall at that time my name was announced three days before the polls,” he said.
Thakur says, “I think appropriate decision (in naming Dhumal as CM candidate) was taken. He is a seasoned politician and a two-time chief minister who rules over people’s hearts. I think it is going to make a big difference to the BJP (in HP polls)”. Rana vacated the Sujanpur seat and unsuccessfully contested the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Hamirpur as a Congress nominee. The vacated Sujanpur assembly seat was won by BJP’s Narender Thakur, who is now contesting from Hamirpur as a saffron party nominee. Rana, however, feels the people will elect him. He has made “Ek Taraf Naam, Doosri Taraf Kaam” as his poll plank. “My work speaks for myself, a big name (Dhumal) does not matter, and people will judge me by that. I am available to my constituents 24×7 and they know that,” Rana, who once considered Dhumal as his political guru, says.
“For the past 15 years, I have been among the people here through thick and thin. I got an SDM office opened here and a mini secretariat is coming up. “An Industrial Training Institute, vegetable market, civil hospital, improved road network in villages and urban areas of the constituency were possible as I worked hard to ensure development, which is my poll plank”, said Rana.