Stage set for high-stakes battle
TWOHORSE RACE Now that November 9 has been set as the date for assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh, Hindustan Times brings you a ready reckoner of all that you wanted to know about the electoral politics of the hill state – facts, figures, personaliti
KEY PLAYERS They are the sheet anchors of the party’s electoral sweepstakes. Some are political veterans, others testing the waters for the first time, while some excel in poll strategy. On test will be their ability to swing the voter. UPHILL TASK VIRBHADRA SINGH AND VIKRAMADITYA SINGH (CONGRESS)
An untiring political warhorse, Virbhadra Singh, 83, is a six-time chief minister. A scion of the Bushahar royal family, he faces corruption charges. Cases have been filed against his wife Pratibha Singh, son Vikramaditya and daughter Aparajita as well. Virbhadra is not only battling the BJP but also fighting detractors within Congress with state party chief Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu leading the charge. His son, Vikramaditya Singh, 27, is keen to carry on his father’s legacy.He was elected Youth Congress chief in 2013.
FATHERSON CHALLENGE PREM KUMAR DHUMAL AND ANURAG THAKUR (BJP)
Elected as a Lok Sabha member for the first time in 1989, Prem Kumar Dhumal remained the BJP’s undisputed face in Himachal Pradesh for two decades. He was the BJP’s surprise pick for CM in 1998 and completed the five-year term. Though age is not on his side this time, his mass appeal may work in his favour though he faces a challenge in Union health minister JP Nadda. His son, Anurag Thakur, the cricketer administrator-turned-Hamirpur MP, is seen as a potential leader to lead the BJP in Himachal Pradesh in the future.
THE STALWART SHANTA KUMAR, 83 (BJP)
An RSS pracharak in his early years, the founder of the BJP in the hill state, Shanta Kumar began as a panch and entered the assembly in 1972. He became CM of the Janata Party government at 42 in 1977 and again in 1990. Shanta Kumar was a minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government. Known for his plain speak, Shanta Kumar has the ability to tilt political scales, especially in Kangra, his bastion that sends 15 legislators to the 68-member House. His participation in the campaign will give thrust to BJP’s efforts to recapture power in the state.
THE NEXT CM? JP NADDA, 56 (BJP)
Seen as the strongest candidate for the post of chief minister in this election, Jagat Prakash Nadda’s rise has been meteoric in the BJP. Nadda started out as a student leader in 1975. He entered state politics in 1993 by winning the assembly election from his hometown of Bilaspur after which he was appointed leader of opposition. Nadda was re-elected in 1998 and became a minister in the Prem Kumar Dhumal government. After he fell out with Dhumal, Nadda quit state politics and was appointed the BJP’s national general secretary. He is close to BJP president Amit Shah.
RABBLEROUSER SUKHVINDER SUKHU, 53, CONG
State Congress chief Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu started out as a student leader of Himachal Pradesh University and was appointed state president of the NSUI from 1989-95. Sukhu was a councillor in the Shimla Municipal Corporation from 1988-98. He was also the state Youth Congress chief. Sukhu entered the assembly in 2003 from Nadaun in Hamirpur district. He retained the seat in 2007. He was nominated Himachal Congress acting president in January 2013 before his formal appointment in April that year. Sukhu has taken on the might of CM Virbhadra Singh.
LEFT CHALLENGER RAKESH SINGHA, 61, CPI(M)
CPI(M) leader Rakesh Singha has emerged as a strong leader in the Shimla belt. Singha began his political career in 1979 as student leader when he was elected as the first president of the HPU Students’ Council. In 1985, he was elected as a member of the Shimla MC. Singha entered the assembly in 1993 but was unseated two years later when he was charged with murder. He was later acquitted. He re-entered the poll arena in 2012, contesting from Theog and got over 10,000 votes despite a brief campaign. The movement he led after the Kotkhai gangrape and murder boosted his campaign.