HP: Cabinet minister, 2 MPs, 4 MLAs among 45 in fray
Shimla: A cabinet minister, two sitting MPs and four MLAs are among 45 candidates, who will be trying their luck in the Lok Sabha polls for four seats in Himachal Pradesh, slated for May 19 in the last phase of the polling.
Himachal Pradesh's top politicians like Shanta Kumar, a sitting MP and former Chief Minister, is not in the fray as had been replaced by the BJP by sitting cabinet minister Krishan Kapoor, a Gaddi leader and five-time MLA from Dharamshala.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi are all set to campaign in the state from May 10 and 13 respectively.
The Congress is in a way fast behind the BJP's high profile campaign being handled by Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur.
Those in the contest significantly include 78-year old retired Indian army officer Col. Dhani Ram Shandil to young upcoming politician and dynast Ashray Sharma, 32, who is the grandson of former telecom minister Sukh Ram.
Sharma is the son of former power minister Anil Sharma who had to resign his cabinet post in the BJP government following Ashray Sharma 's Congress ticket from Mandi.
Of the total 45 candidates in the fray, Mandi has the highest number of 17 candidates left in the fray. Six in Shimla and 11 each in Hamirpur and Mandi.
Lone woman candidate in the Lok Sabha poll is 36-year old Nisha Katoch contesting as independent from Kangra.
Four sitting MLAs contesting the poll include three from the Congress – Col (retd) Dhani Ram Shandil (Shimla) Ram Lal Thakur (Hamirpur) and Pawan Kajal (Kangra) beside two-time BJP MLA Suresh Kashyap, who is also an ex-serviceman.
The most interesting poll battle is going to happen in Mandi where sitting BJP MP Ram Swaroop Sharma has been fielded by the party despite opposition from certain quarters within the party due to his poor performance.
But with the backing of Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, who gave Mandi Chief Minister post first-time in the state's history, Sharma is an advantageous position. His rival, who is making his debut in the poll after quitting the BJP, is trying to gather the Congress stalwart Virbhadra Singh 's support, beside encashing on the legacy of his grandfather Sukh Ram.
Anurag Thakur three-time sitting MP is comfortably placed in Hamirpur to retain the seat with the major advantage of his father and former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal wielding influence in the area. Though Dhumal missed the Chief Ministerial post as he lost his assembly poll, he has worked hard to ensure that Anurag Thakur maintains the popularity graph, and registers his record fourth win in the constituency.