Five MLAs, including a state minister, are among the 45 candidates trying to make it to Parliament from Himachal Pradesh where polling will be held Sunday, the last phase of voting in the 2019 elections. Among the 45 candidates is Congress nominee from Mandi, Aashray Sharma, whose father had to sacrifice his berth in the state’s BJP government. There are 53,30,154 registered voters for the four constituencies — Shimla (SC), Mandi, Hamirpur and Kangra — in the state.
A direct contest is expected between the Congress and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, which had won all four seats in 2014. The BJP has fielded the state’s Food and Civil Supplies Minister Kishan Kapoor in Kangra after dropping sitting MP Shanta Kumar. Kangra’s Congress MLA Pawan Kajal is contesting against him.
In Hamirpur, three-time MP and former BCCI president Anurag Thakur is in the fray on a BJP ticket. He faces Sri Naina Devi’s Congress MLA Ram Lal Thakur. BJP’s Pachhad MLA Suresh Kashyap is contesting against Solan Congress MLA Dhani Ram Shandil for the Shimla (SC) parliamentary seat.
Aashray Sharma, who is the grandson of former Union Telecom minister Sukh Ram, is contesting against BJP MP Ram Swaroop Sharma in Mandi. His father Anil Sharma had to resign from the state cabinet after he decided to contest on the Congress ticket.
Anil Sharma’s resignation followed an awkward phase during which the minister refused to campaign for his own party’s candidate in Mandi, insisting that he would not takes sides. The state is almost certain to see some assembly by-polls in the coming months to fill vacant seats, as both the Congress and the BJP have fielded MLAs.
Although the state sends just four MPs to the Lok Sabha, political parties spared no efforts during the last days of the campaign. Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi addressed rallies in the state. Superintendent of Police (law and order) Khushhal Sharma said elaborate security arrangements have been made for the smooth conduct of the polls in the state.
Forty-seven companies of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) have been deployed along with the state police and home guard personnel to ensure free and fair elections, he told PTI on Saturday. State Chief Electoral Officer Harbans Lal Dhiman said 7,723 polling stations have been set up in the state and out of which 373 have been declared as critical and 939 as vulnerable. Voting in the state will begin at 7 am and will go on till 6 pm.