Martyr's mother takes on CMs' sons in Hamirpur

 A traditional BJP bastion, the Hamirpur Lok Sabha constituency in Himachal Pradesh, represented by former chief minister P K Dhumal’s son and BJP national youth wing president Anurag Thakur, 39, has been retained by the saffron party for nearly two decades now.

This time, however, two-time MP Thakur faces a spirited double challenge. The Congress candidate is his former protégé, a friend-turned-foe, while the AAP opponent in the fray is a brave woman who prides herself as the mother of Kargil war martyr Capt Vikram Batra, who was awarded the highest gallantry award—the Param Vir Chakra—posthumously.

Interestingly, Capt Batra’s mother Kamal Kanta Batra, 68, isn’t campaigning in the name of her valiant son or on sympathy for the courage he had displayed in Kargil in 1999.

It’s a conscious decision not to ask for boths on sympathetic grounds but to fight an election projecting “real issues” of the people, which she believes the AAP epitomises. Batra, nevertheless, hopes the over-1-lakh ex-servicemen, serving officers and those of the paramilitary forces in the constituency will support her.

But the real contest is between Thakur and his once-loyalist and former saffron party media in-charge Rajinder Rana, 48, who is not letting anyone in the BJP camp sleep easy these days.

Rana switched over to the Congress, wining the last Assembly elections, after the BJP denied him a ticket. His strength lies in knowing the saffron party and the voters in the constituency too well; perhaps, more than anybody else.

Rana had worked as Dhumal’s footsoldier for long before calling it quits. The Congress is banking on the rapport he enjoys with the people in the area.

The constituency presents a multi-cornered contest. The Congress' strategy to field Rana and the entry of a formidable challenge in the form of the AAP candidate has confined the Dhumal and his son largely to the bounds of the constituency. Dhumal is seeking votes for his son in an aggressive door-to-door campaign to connect with the people. Anurag flaunts what he as MP and his father as chief minister did for the constituency—expanding rail networks, bringing big projects, and more.

For incumbent chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and son Vikramaditya, president of the state Youth Congress, winning other seats in the state are as important as defeating Anurag from Hamirpur, in an attempt to storm the saffron party’s traditional bastion. The BJP had won 10 of the 17 Assembly segments in the last elections, and fights this poll with a clear advantage.

For Batra, the election is more than just about victory of defeat; at least, that’s what comes as some solace for her in the backdrop of both Anurag and Rana's money-driven campaigns.

Batra says she does not have the required money power to match the BJP or congress campaigns, but hopes the “Kejriwal impact” would make up for the deficit. Anurag, on his part, will require the “Modi wave”.

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