Congress, BJP to battle it out in Kinnaur

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Shimla, Nov 7 (UNI) The Kinnaur constituency in Himachal Pradesh is set to witness a clash between the BJP and the Congress with the BSP and the LJP likely to play spoilsports as the seat goes to polls in the first phase on November 14.

While the Congress has fielded sitting legislator Jagat Singh Negi, the BJP has reposed faith in Tejwant Singh Negi, who lost the last assembly elections by a slender margin to the Congress candidate. Sushil Sana has entered the fray as the BSP candidate, while Bhagat Singh Kinner is contesting the elections on an LJP ticket.

With the BJP trying to cash in on the legacy of former state chief secretary T S Negi, who won this seat five times in 1967, 1972, 1977, 1982 and 1990, the Congress is banking on Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh's clout in the district.

Mr Singh has a stronghold in the constituency as it was part of Bushahar state and also fell in Mandi Parliamentary constituency, which he represented four times in 1962, 1967, 1972 and 1980 and his wife Pratibha Singh is the sitting Lok Sabha member from there On the other hand, former state chief ministers Shanta Kumar and P K Dhumal are spearheading the BJP campaign, which is likely to get a boost in the next few days with the entry of BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu.

Mr T S Negi, who also remained Speaker of the Himachal Pradesh Assembly from June 1979 to 1984 and again from 1990 to December 1993, is credited with getting tribal status for Kinnaur when he was the state's development commissioner.

The BSP's candidate could cut into the Congress' votes while the LJP's Bhagat Singh Kinner, a former president of Kinnaur district BJP, would make a dent into BJP vote bank.

However, the BJP is on a solid footing in this assembly seat after winning the panchayat polls held last year.

Besides, the state government's decision to allow the setting up of a large number of hydro power projects in the district is likely to hurt the Congress with the local people and environmentalists opposing the decision.

The issue of ''nau tod land'' (free land to the landless) has also become a major election issue with the tribals, who practised polyandry to avoid fragmentation of small land holdings.

But with the custom of polyandry being discarded due to spread of education and social awakening, the tribals are looking up to the political parties to clear their stand on the issue.

The Kinnaur constituency has 134 towns and villages in all with a population of about 85,000 and an electorate of 48,513 and population density of 12 per sq km.

Polling in the tribal seat, surrounded by Tibet in the east and situated in the northeast corner of the state, is being held ahead of other parts of the state for the first in its history.

Earlier, polling in all the three tribal seats of Kinnuar, Lahaul Spiti and Bharmaur was normally held after other areas and usually after the government had been formed.

Counting of votes will take place with the rest of the state on December 28.


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