Dehra bypoll: Making poll debut, Sukhu's wife seeks votes in Himachal CM's name

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Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu with wife Kamlesh Thakur (File image)

Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu with wife Kamlesh Thakur (File image)

Shimla: Vote for the CM and not the MLA. This is the slogan of Congress candidate Kamlesh Thakur, wife of Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, who is making her debut in electoral politics from the Dehra assembly seat.

Dehra is one of the three assembly constituencies besides Hamirpur and Nalagarh where bypolls will be held on Wednesday.

The seats fell vacant after the three independent legislators -- Hoshiyar Singh (Dehra), Ashish Sharma (Hamirpur) and K L Thakur (Nalagarh) who had voted in favour of the BJP in the Rajya Sabha polls held on February 27 -- resigned from the House on March 22.

The BJP fielded all the three former independent MLAs from their respective seats after they joined the saffron party. A total of 13 candidates are contesting the bypolls in the three segments with 2,59,340 voters.

While the by-elections would not make much difference in the House as the Congress has a majority with 38 out of 68 members and the BJP has 27 members, in Dehra, the prestige of the chief minister will be at stake as Kamlesh Thakur is taking on Hoshiyar Singh -- one among the nine MLAs who voted against the Congress candidate in the Rajya Sabha polls.

"Vote for the CM and not the MLA. Now, Dehra will also become the constituency of the CM," Kamlesh Thakur told people while canvassing implying that voting for her meant voting for the CM and hence "development".

"I will not need to go to the Secretariat to get your work done, I will get it done from the chief minister at home," said Kamlesh Thakur, who is pitted against two-time Independent MLA from Dehra and now BJP candidate Hoshiyar Singh.

Dehra constituency was carved out after delimitation in 2012 and senior BJP leader and former minister Ravi Inder Singh was elected in 2012 as the MLA while Hoshiyar Singh won as an Independent in the 2017 and 2022 assembly polls.

The BJP gave a ticket to Hoshiyar Singh, ignoring the objections raised by former ministers Romesh Dhawala and Ravi Inder Singh, and set the stage for a virtual straight contest between the Congress and the BJP.

The no-holds-barred campaigning was marred by mud-slinging and insinuations, vitiating the atmosphere.

While Hoshiyar Singh has been attacking Sukhu, saying those who de-notified several educational, health and other institutions are talking of development, the Congress leaders have accused the three independents of "selling their souls" to the BJP and asking people to reject the 'sold out' leaders.

The Congress led by Sukhu also questioned why the MLAs resigned after 15 months and were now seeking re-election.

"There was no need for them to resign as Independent MLAs can support or oppose any party and even if they win, they would have to sit in the opposition," Sukhu said.

He accused them of working for their own interests and not the people and alleged that the BJP, the Congress rebels and the Independent MLAs had hatched a conspiracy to topple the elected Congress government in the state.

In the Hamirpur assembly segment, Ashish Sharma has crossed swords with Congress's Puspender Verma who lost by a margin of 12,899 votes in the 2022 assembly polls.

Hamirpur is the home district of Sukhu and the parliament constituency of former Union minister and BJP leader Anurag Thakur.

Hamirpur assembly constituency has been a stronghold of the BJP. Of the 14 elections, including one by-election, held since 1967, the BJP and its earlier incarnation, the Jan Sangh and Janta Party won 10 while the Congress won three, including a by-election. An Independent candidate bagged the seat once.

Sukhu has dubbed Sharma as part of the mining mafia while the BJP candidate has made similar allegations against the CM's family members.

State BJP chief Rajiv Bindal and Anurag Thakur have accused Sukhu of remaining silent on the issues of corruption, failure to fulfil poll promises, bringing development to a standstill, misusing the government machinery to influence the elections and increasing the burden of inflation and debt.

In Nalagarh, former Independent legislature K L Thakur is facing old rival Hardeep Singh Bawa of the Congress. However, the entry of BJP dissident Harpreet Saini -- contesting as an Independent -- has made the contest triangular.

K L Thakur defeated Bawa and BJP candidate Lakhvinder Singh Rana in the 2022 assembly polls. Rana is not in the fray this time.

Of the 14 assembly polls, including one by-election, held in the Nalagarh seat since it was carved out in 1966, the Congress has won eight times, including a by-election in 2011, while the BJP bagged the seat four times. The seat was won by an Independent and Janta Party candidate once each.

The BJP got a lead in all three assembly constituencies during the recently held Lok Sabha polls.

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