In Himachal Pradesh, it's Sharma vs. Sharma to capture Mandi
Shimla, May 15: Despite having only four Lok Sabha seats, the hill state of Himachal Pradesh is set to witness battles royal when it votes in the last phase of Lok Sabha Election on 19 May with many dynasts seeking to make a mark. Mandi, literally means a market, has only twice sung a different electoral tune than the popular voice of the nation in the past 67 years through 18 Lok Sabha elections and bypolls.
The Mandi Lok Sabha seat of Himachal Pradesh, which goes to the polls in the seventh and the last phase of the parliamentary polls, qualifies as a true bellwether seat in the national election.
It is a battle of prestige for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) star campaigner and Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur to retain the Mandi parliamentary seat in Himachal Pradesh.
Thakur's prestige is at stake to retain the seat as incumbent MP Ram Swaroop Sharma, known for his proximity to the Chief Minister, is facing anti-incumbency and his main opponent is defected BJP leader and former Telecom Minister Sukh Ram who is campaigning aggressively for his grandson and Congress greenhorn candidate Ashray Sharma.
The contest on this seat has become interesting with Congress candidate's father Anil Sharma, a legislator from Mandi (Sadar), is still with the BJP and he is not campaigning for his party.
Popularly known as Panditji in Mandi, six-time MLA and three-time MP Sukh Ram, 91, and his grandson Ashray Sharma rejoined the Congress on March 25 after quitting the BJP.
Mandi is one of the country's largest constituencies comprising Kullu, Mandi and some areas of Chamba and Shimla districts, besides the tribal-dominated Assembly seats of Kinnaur, Lahaul and Spiti.
The Mandi Lok Sabha seat has been a traditional Congress bastion and the party lost it for the first time in 1977.
Political observers say Ashray Sharma is also cashing in on the legacy of his father Anil Sharma, who was a minister in the state in 1993-97 and in 2012-17.
Sukh Ram has been dubbed an 'Aya Ram Gaya Ram'.
Himachal Pradesh's four Lok Sabha seats -- Shimla (reserved), Kangra, Hamirpur and Mandi -- will vote on May 19.