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

Hindustan Times (Amritsar) - - Hthimachalppollpprimer -

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.

Il­lus­tra­tions: BISWAJIT DEBNATH/HT

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