With the official announcement of BJP and Congress candidates by their respective parties the stage is now set for contest on Mandi parliament constituency between Ram Swaroop Sharma (BJP) and Ashray Sharma (Congress).
While Sharma is a sitting MP from Mandi, Ashray Sharma would be in election fray for the first time. Former had contested the election for first time in 2014 parliament election and had proved a “giant killer” by defeating Congress candidate Pratibha Singh wife of then Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh.
On the other hand Ashray Sharma is entering the fray for the first time. He along with his grand father, veteran politician and former union communication minister Sukh Ram joined the Congress party leaving the BJP, few days back.
Anil Sharma not to campaign for BJP
Power minister in the BJP government in Himachal Pradesh Anil Sharma has said he would not campaign against his son Ashray Sharma the Congress candidate in Mandi.
Sukh Ram’s son Anil is minister and the BJP MLA from Mandi Assembly segment which along with 16 other Assembly segments falls under Mandi parliamentary Segment.
Anil said, “I have already conveyed it to the BJP leadership after my father Sukh Ram and my son rejoined the Congress on March 25 that if Ashray is given a Congress ticket; I would not campaign against him.”
HP BJP president Sat pal Singh Sati said, we will take up this issue with senior leaders.
Sukh Ram had been demanding ticket for his grandson from BJP but left the party after announcement of re-nomination of Ram Swaroop by the BJP high command. He had plunged into BJP before the last Assembly election in the state in 2017 along with his son Anil Sharma, leaving the Congress party enjoying power for many decades. His son is still a cabinet minster in Jai Ram Thakur led BJP government in the state.
With the entry of Ashray Sharma in the fray the contests for Mandi parliament constituency has become quite interesting with stakes very high for both the parties.
More so, since the election for Mandi seat would be a proxy battle between Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, who hails from Mandi district and has been elected MLA from Seraj constituency for record fifth time and the BJP had won nine out of ten Assembly constituencies and one independent MLA elected as an independent is also supporting the ruling BJP in the state.
This would be first election after Jai Ram Thakur had become Chief Minister of the state ousting the Congress government from power. The election outcome of parliament election would also be a test of popularity of his government and his leadership.
Sukh Ram, who had been dominating the politics of Mandi for more than 50 years, would also be under pressure to prove his grip on voters in the constituency, which he had nursed for so many years.
( This story was carried in Daily Post on March 31, 2019 )