Crucial Test For CM Sukhu As Voting On 6 Seats Set To Decide Fate Of His Govt

By May31,2024

After a two-month-long campaign, the fate of Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu’s government for 25 nominees in six Assembly by-polls in Himachal Pradesh will be decided on June 1. In addition to the elections for the four Lok Sabha seats of Hamirpur, Mandi, Kangra, and Shimla, by-elections are being held in six Assembly segments: Sujanpur, Dharamshala, Lahaul and Spiti, Barsar, Gagret, and Kutlehar.

The assembly seats became vacant following the disqualification of Congress rebels who defied a party whip during the budget vote to support the government.

As per PTI report, these legislators supported the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Rajya Sabha polls on February 29, later joined the BJP, and are now contesting the by-elections on BJP tickets from their respective Assembly segments. Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu criticised the rebels, calling them “bikau” (sold out) and “kale naag” (snakes), urging voters to punish them.

Political leaders held large rallies and “nukkar” (corner) meetings, especially in constituencies with simultaneous Assembly by-elections and Lok Sabha elections. Local issues dominated the campaign due to the Assembly by-elections.

Sukhu accused the BJP of plotting to topple the democratically elected government in Himachal Pradesh using money power and expressed confidence that the Congress will defeat the BJP with popular support.

The BJP’s campaign focused on the Congress government’s unfulfilled promises, the slogan “Modi teesri bar” (Narendra Modi as prime minister for a third term), and the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya. They also labeled the Congress as “anti-Ram” for not attending the temple consecration ceremony.

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Congress vs BJP Fight In Himachal For Lok Sabha, Assembly Bypolls

The Congress lashed out at the Agniveer scheme for short-term military recruitment, alleged threats to democracy, and BJP’s horse-trading. They also addressed unemployment and inflation issues.

Both parties discussed apple growers’ issues from different perspectives. The Congress promised 100 percent import duty on apples, removal of GST on farm inputs, loan waivers, and subsidies on fertilisers and pesticides. The BJP highlighted schemes like Kisan Samman Nidhi and solar fencing for apple farmers.

The six Assembly by-elections are crucial for Sukhu’s 17-month-old government’s survival and stability. The entry of BJP rebels Ram Lal Markanda and Rakesh Chowdhary has created a triangular contest in the Lahaul and Spiti and Dharamshala Assembly by-elections, respectively. Rajinder Rana, who narrowly defeated BJP’s Ranjeet Singh Rana in the 2022 Assembly election, is now contesting the Sujanpur by-election on a BJP ticket against his former rival, who has since joined the Congress.

In the Gagret Assembly by-election, Congress rebel Chetanya Sharma is running as the BJP candidate against Rakesh Kalia, who rejoined the Congress after being denied a ticket by the BJP in 2022.

Congress leaders also criticised the central BJP government for not providing financial relief after the severe monsoon calamity last year. In “Devbhoomi” Himachal Pradesh, the campaign reached new lows as political leaders openly attacked their opponents, used foul language, and made personal jabs at them.

In Mandi Lok Sabha seat, the reputations of Kangana Ranaut and Vikramaditya Singh—the son of Virbhadra Singh, the six-time former chief minister and heir to the former Rampur royal family—are in jeopardy. There are also significant stakes for former Union minister Anand Sharma, the Congress candidate from Kangra Lok Sabha constituency, and Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur, who is running for a fifth term as a member of Parliament from Hamirpur.

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