Lok Sabha Elections 2024 | Congress' Anand Sharma in poll fray after 40 years, faces BJP debutant Rajiv Bharadwaj in Himachal's Kangra

There are 15,02,506 electors voters in this constituency, going to polls on June 1.
Last Updated : 31 May 2024, 08:07 IST
Last Updated : 31 May 2024, 08:07 IST

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Shimla: It is a battle between a politician who fought a poll over four decades back and an electoral debutant in Himachal Pradesh's Kangra Lok Sabha constituency.

Making his debut in this general elections at the age of 62, Dr Rajiv Bharadwaj of the BJP is contesting against Congress leader and former Union minister Anand Sharma in the parliamentary seat made up of 13 assembly segments of Kangra district and four of Chamba district.

While Bharadwaj has the legacy of his uncle and former chief minister Shanta Kumar and his popularity as a grassroots BJP worker and doctor to bank on to connect with the electorate, Sharma held a spirited campaign along with local and national Congress leaders to woo voters.

The Congress candidate last contested a poll from the Shimla assembly seat in 1982 and lost. He was a Union minister as a member of the Rajya Sabha.

Since the first Lok Sabha polls in 1951-52, Kangra has been won by the BJP in six elections four times by Kumar and 10 times by the Congress. The seat, which goes to polls in the seventh and last phase of the polls on June 1 and has a sitting BJP MP, was in Punjab till the state's reorganisation in 1966. Kangra was won by the Janata Party once.

Both the BJP and the ruling Congress in the state have put up determined campaigns to woo voters with Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP president JP Nadda among others canvassing for Bharadwaj and Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and other senior party leaders for 71-year-old Sharma. Sharma during his campaigns in the constituency, which has a seizable population of families who have members in the armed forces and ex-servicemen, attacked his rival on the BJP-led central government's Agniveer scheme. He also targetted the BJP, accusing it of doing "divisive" politics, while also racking up the Congress's promise to "save" the Constitution and democracy.

Releasing a "five-year agenda" for Kangra, Bharadwaj based his campaigning around local issues, besides highlighting the works of the Narendra Modi government and the construction of the Ram temple in Uttar Pradesh's Ayodhya.

Developing Dharamshala, Mcleodganj, Khajjiar and Palampur as major tourist destinations, completing the Holi-Uttarala tunnel, restoring the Jogindernagar-Pathankot rail service, bringing schemes to generate employment in rural areas and starting "Meet your MP programme" are on the BJP candidate's agenda.

The Congress leader also promised four tunnels in the hilly Kangra-Chamba region and strengthening road infrastructure and the tourism sector of Himachal Pradesh.

With no other prominent candidate in the poll fray to challenge the BJP and the Congress, it is a direct contest in Kangra Brahmins, OBCs, Gaddis and ex-servicemen form a large chunk of the electorate. While the BJP replaced its sitting MP Kishan Kapoor, hailing from the Gaddi community, with Bharadwaj, the Congress did not retain Pawan Kajal as its candidate. In the 2019 polls, Kapoor, who is not in good health, had defeated Kajal by a margin of 4,77,623 votes.

In view of his health, Kapoor kept away from campaigning. He, however, has the grouse that he was not consulted before the BJP announced Bharadwaj candidature.

Campaigning for the last phase of the polls, which ended Thursday, saw the Congress trying to convince people that only a leader of tall stature like Sharma can effectively raise the issues of the state at the Centre.

Bharadwaj has dubbed Sharma as an outsider, claiming it is for the first time that any national party has fielded a candidate who is not from Kangra.

The Congress leader has countered his rival, saying he hails from Himachal Pradesh and resides in capital Sharma and pointing out that even Prime Minister Modi who is from Gujarat is contesting the polls on June 1 from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.

Of the 17 assembly segments in the Kangra Lok Sabha constituency, 11 were won by the Congress in the 2022 state polls.

There are 15,02,506 electors voters in this constituency, going to polls on June 1.

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Published 31 May 2024, 08:07 IST

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