With all set for polling to Mandi parliament by-election on October 30, the election has became a prestige issue for Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and Congress candidate Pratibha Singh.

Though BJP has fielded Brigadier Khushal Thakur (retd.) as the BJP candidate but stakes are quite high for Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur in his home district as the outcome of the parliament by-election may have bearings on his leadership. More so, since the next Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh are due in 2022.  

Similarly, Congress candidate Pratibha Singh, widow of former six times Chief Minister and one of the most popular mass leaders of Congress in the state Virbharda Singh, is  contesting the election in the absence of Late VB Singh. She had won two parliament elections and lost two. This election is quite important for her as supporters of VB Singh are looking towards her to fill the leadership void created in the state Congress after the death of VB Singh.  

 Mandi parliamentary constituency after remaining a stronghold of Congress for long has also sprung surprises. BJP candidate Maheshwar Singh had defeated Congress stalwart Sukh Ram in 1989, Pratibha Singh in 1998 and Kaul Singh Thakur in 1999. Pratibha Singh had defeated Maheshwar Singh in 2004 and Jai Ram Thakur in 2013 by-election.

In 2014 parliament election Pratibha Singh was defeated by Ram Swaroop Sharma. The present by-election has been necessitated by the death of BJP MP Ram Swaroop Sharma.

 BJP and Congress leaders have raised several issues in the election but the issue of price rise and saving CM’s tag in the home district of Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur seems to be weighing heavy on the minds of voters.    

 People from different sections of the society are openly talking about ill effects of high prices of petrol, diesel, and mustard oil etc. The Congress leaders have exploited this issue to its hilt in the election campaign.  The sympathy factor after the death of VB Singh may also influence the choice of voters to some extent.  

The BJP leaders are discounting the issue of inflation saying the Central government has already given relief to common people through different schemes and  highlighting the issue of development . However, the prestige attached to CM’s tag with Jai Ram Thakur being the first CM from Mandi district, can also tilt the choice of voters in Mandi district.  

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