The by-election for Mandi parliamentary constituency would mainly between Congress candidate Pratibha Singh and BJP candidate Khushal Thakur. After scrutiny of the nominations papers on Monday six candidates are in the fray now, including BJP and Congress candidates.
Pratibha Singh, wife of six times former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh is contesting the seat for the fifth times. She has represented the Mandi parliamentary constituency in 2004 and 2013 and lost two elections in 1998 and 2014.
She had contested the election in 1998 but lost at the hands of BJP candidate Meheshwar Singh after veteran Congress leader Sukh Ram breaking up from Congress had formed Himachal Vikas Congress and joined hands with the BJP to form an alliance government in the state. Sukh Ram, Deputy CM in the alliance government had actively worked to ensure victory of Maheshwar Singh. Pratibha Singh had lost the election.
However, in 2004 parliament election she was fielded again by Congress when it came to power in the state and she defeated Maheshwar Singh. In 2009 parliament election after losing power in the state Assembly election Virbhadra Singh won the seat for the Congress. Virbhadra Singh vacated the seat after becoming the state CM in 2012 and Pratibha was fielded again in 2013 by-election and she had defeated Jai Ram Thakur by over 1.36000 votes.
In 2014 parliament election riding on the Modi wave BJP candidate Ram Swaroop Sharma defeated Pratibha Singh by over 39000 votes. During the last parliament election Congress had fielded Ashrey Sharma grandson of Sukh Ram who was defeated by Ram Swaroop by over 4 lakhs votes.
The present by-election has been caused by mysterious death of Ram Swaroop Sharma and Congress has fielded Pratibha Singh. The election would be a litmus test for Pratibha Singh as she is fighting the election in the absence of Virbhadra Singh, most popular mass leader of Congress in Himachal, who passed away few months back.
BJP has own Mandi parliament seat five times, three times by Maheshwar Singh in 1989, 1998, 1999 and two times by Ram Swaroop Sharma in 2014 and 2019 parliament election.
Brig. Khushal Thakur (retd) is making a debut through the by-election and being a new to electoral politics is heavily banking on the popularity of Prime Minister Narender Modi and BJP government.
BJP is trying to project his valour as an Army Commander, who commanded an Army unit which captured Tiger Hill and Tololing Hills in Kargil war but he being a new entrant in the fray Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur is vigorously campaigning for him. Mandi is home district of the CM and the by-election is very crucial for him as Himachal Assembly elections are due in 2022.