Kangra holds key to victory in HP polls

Kangra holds key to  victory in HP polls

 

Kangra, one of the most populous districts of Himachal Pradesh, located in the western Himalayas, holds the key to winning the election in the hill state.

It's district headquarters, nestled in the picturesque Dharamshala, is a popular tourist destination.

Traditionally, over  the past four decades, the party that won the most number of seats in Kangra went ahead to form the government in the state. This district has as many as 15 Assembly segments - nearly one-fourth of the total seats in the hill state. People in these segments have long voted in a particular pattern, often ignoring the incumbents during the elections.

In the 2012  Assembly election, the Congress won 10 of the 15 seats in Kangra, and  the BJP had to be  content with only three. The Congress won and Virbhadra Singh became the chief minister.

Prior to that, the Congress was reduced to a mere five  seats in Kangra, with the saffron party winning 10 Assembly seats. The BJP then remained in power for five years under the leadership of Prem Kumar Dhumal.

Both the Congress and the BJP know the political relevance of this zone. No government in Himachal Pradesh  has repeated office.

Since 1977, the Congress and the BJP have taken turns to form governments. That has essentially been because of the way Kangra has voted - one time in favour of a particular party and then ousting it five years later.

The Congress has reason to worry if it goes by the voting pattern in the 15 Kangra constituencies. This time, both the parties face rebel candidates in Kangra.

Kangra strongman and BJP stalwart Shanta Kumar was the first non-Congress chief minister of Himachal Pradesh. In 1977, the Janata Party won with a resounding majority, winning 53 of the 60 Assembly segments. Kumar became the chief minister  and Kangra played a vital role in deciding the political fortunes of the state, giving the party 13 of the 16 seats from here.

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