Himachal: Poll notifications today; stakes high for CM Jai Ram Thakur
Shimla: The ruling BJP has much at stake in the Lok Sabha polls, slated for May 19 as the process for filing of nominations will begin on Monday – the day when formal notification will be issued by the Election Commission (EC).
More than the BJP, it's Jai Ram Thakur whose leadership will be at the test as first-time Chief Minister as most earlier Lok Sabha and assembly polls were fought under Prem Kumar Dhumal.
Dhumal-- a two-time Chief Minister, lost his assembly election 2017 and missed his chance to became Chief Minister. The party chose five-time MLA Jai Ram Thakur to Chief Ministerial position.
The state has 50.96 lakh registered voters in the four Parliamentary constituencies viz Mandi, Kangra, Hamirpur and Shimla (Reserve)--- all won by the BJP in the 2014 elections, mainly due to Modi wave.
The BJP has now given a call for 'Mission4' to retain its dominance in the state.
Of four sitting MPs, the party has denied ticket to the 84-year old BJP senior Shanta Kumar in Kangra and two-time MP Virender Kashyap from Shimla (R). Three-time MP and former BCCI president Anurag Thakur is contesting his traditional bastion Hamirpur --- a seat even his father Prem Kumar Dhumal also had won thrice. Incumbent Ram Swaroop Sharma is back in Mandi --- being considered as a hot seat since Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur hails from Mandi.
The opposition Congress is making a determined bid to regain its foothold in the state.
The party had performed badly in 2009 and 2014. It could win just one seat in 2009 and drew blank in the last poll.
The Congress has fielded new faces in Mandi and Kangra. Though initially, it had plans to field Virbhadra Singh or his son Vikramaditya Singh (first-time MLA ) in Mandi but eventually gave the ticket to 32-year old Ashray Sharma, grandson of Sukh Ram. Both joined the Congress at the last moment as the BJP chose not to oblige Sukh Ram lobbying for his grandson's ticket.
In Kangra, Pawan Kajal, an OBC leader and sitting MLA has been fielded against incumbent cabinet minister Krishan Kapoor. Kapoor is close confident of Shanta Kumar.
Ram Lal Thakur, who had twice lost in Hamirpur, is Congress candidate. Col (Rtd) Dhani Ram Shandil will contest against BJP's new face Suresh Kashyap in Shimla. As the party's show of strength, the Chief Minister has decided to remain present during nominations of all four candidates during the next four days. Similarly, Virbhadra Singh has also announced his plan to stay with party candidates during nominations. The last date for filing nominations is April 29.