With the booster dose of being declared the Chief Ministerial face of the BJP, Sujanpur constituency appears to have turned a favourite seat for Prem Kumar Dhumal against Congress heavyweight Rajinder Singh Rana in an otherwise difficult constituency.
Dhumal, who had been Chief Minister twice, had contested the 2012 Assembly polls from Hamirpur and the previous three elections from Bamson constituency in Hamirpur district. But as part of BJP President Amit Shah’s strategy, Dhumal’s constituency was changed to Sujanpur. Sujanpur’s MLA Narendra Thakur was shifted to Hamirpur in place of Dhumal.
By shifting Dhumal, Shah aims to pocket the difficult Sujanpur seat while it is widely felt that Hamirpur is the pocketborough of Dhumal.
Congress candidate Rana is popular in the area as he is said to have one-to-one personal contact with a larger number of voters although he has not been an MLA since 2014 and not won any election since then. The November 9 poll will decide whether the people of Sujanpur want a Chief Minister or a locally popular leader as their representative.
Sunil Kumar Mehra (43), a shopkeeper in Sujanpur, told IANS: “Rana is familiar with the locals. He keeps meeting people in their good and bad times. He is also very helpful. He helps families during marriages. Besides, as an MLA he has done many developmental activities in the area including setting up of the SDM office.”
Guler Singh (36), who runs a mobile shop in Sachuhi village, said the situation was earlier “50-50” but the scene changed in favour of Dhumal after he was declared the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Chief Ministerial face.
“The election has tilted towards Dhumalji with 60 per cent in his favour and 40 per cent against. The Congress candidate has his own image and he is leaving no stone unturned to change the game in his favor,” he said.
Sujanpur constituency is located in Hamirpur district and comes under the Hamirpur Lok Sabha constituency, now represented by his son Anurag Thakur.
As per the 2011 census, of the total 82,162 population of Sujanpur, 90.33 per cent are rural and 9.67 per cent are urban residents. Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes account for 24.17 and 0.19 per cent respectively of the population.
There are 67,065 electors in the constituency.
Rana, once a close aide of Dhumal and his media advisor, revolted against him after the BJP denied him a ticket in 2012. He fought the election as an independent candidate from Sujanpur and won by defeating BJP’s Urmil Thakur.
“People of Sujanpur have to decide whether they want a Chief Minister from Sujanpur or a Dhartiputra who helps them in their good or bad times,” Sher Singh Dogra, a retired soldier, told IANS.
Later, Rana joined the Congress and vacated the assembly seat to fight the 2014 Lok Sabha election. He lost to Anurag Thakur. In the by-polls to Sujanpur, the Congress pitted Rana’s wife Anita Rana but she was defeated by BJP’s Narendra Thakur by over 500 votes.
Narendra Thakur, son of BJP stalwart Jagdev Chand, had quit the BJP in 2003 and fought against Dhumal in 2009. He is fighting this election from Hamirpur.
To counter Rana’s personal attachment with voters and his allegation that the BJP candisate was an outsider, Dhumal has promising the voters to open a CM camp office in Sujanpur. Besides, Dhumal has promised to establish a medical college at Sujanpur.
After filing his nominations, Dhumal has addressed only one public meeting in the area while Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath wooed the voters in BJP’s favour by addressing a rally in Sujanpur.
Dhumal’s sons Anurag Thakur and Arun Dhumal are working hard to ensure Dhumal’s win and are camping in the area.
On his part, Rana is dependent on his personal contacts and the work he has done. His supporters say if the Congress wins, he could be a possible Deputy Chief Minister. But Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who addressed a rally on Sunday, kept silence over the issue.
Sujanpur is famous for its Holi festival. The state-level Holi festival has been celebrated since Sansar Chand (1765-1823) turned it into a popular folk festival on the lines of Holi of ‘Brij’ in Uttar Pradesh.