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Lok Sabha Elections 2024 | High-stakes battle in Himachal's Sujanpur assembly as old rivals fight from swapped parties

As both Congress and the BJP are locked in a no holds barred battle to win the Sujanpur assembly seat, the victory of Rana would serve as a boost for the Congress rebels while his defeat would be a requiem for the BJP.
Last Updated : 27 May 2024, 10:46 IST
Last Updated : 27 May 2024, 10:46 IST

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Hamirpur (HP): The Sujanpur assembly by-election in Himachal Pradesh is seeing a repeat of the 2022 election with two old rivals Rajinder Singh Rana and Ranjit Singh up against each other, except that they have swapped their parties this time.

While Rana is a Congress rebel who recently switched to the BJP, Singh, a retired captain, joined the Congress after Rana was given a BJP ticket for the Sujanpur bypoll.

Rana, who contested the 2022 election on a Congress ticket and defeated Singh by a slender margin of 399 votes, had raised the banner of revolt against Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu.

He was among the six Congress MLAs who voted in favour of the BJP nominee in the Rajya Sabha polls and had to face disqualification.

Three Independents had also voted for the BJP candidate Harsh Mahajan in the Rajya Sabha polls held on February 27.

Of the six assembly constituencies where by-elections are being held due to disqualification of the Congress rebels, Sujanpur has become a hot seat as it would decide if the three-month long slander campaign unleashed by the chief minister against Rana and the five ex-MLAs dubbing them as 'bikau' (sold out) impacted the electorate or they still trust Rana and other rebels.

As both Congress and the BJP are locked in a no holds barred battle to win the Sujanpur assembly seat, the victory of Rana would serve as a boost for the Congress rebels while his defeat would be a requiem for the BJP.

Rana, once a confidant of former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, revolted after denial of BJP ticket in 2012 .

He later joined the Congress and won the assembly polls in 2017, scripting history by defeating Dhumal, BJP's chief ministerial candidate, and retained the seat in 2022 but was disqualified after fifteen months and now is back with the BJP.

Sujanpur falls under the Hamirpur Lok Sabha seat from where Union Information and Broadcasting minister Anurag Thakur, son of Dhumal, is seeking a fifth term. Under the dramatically changed circumstances, Dhumal family and their supporters have no option other than supporting Rajinder Rana.

Sukhu, who is intensively campaigning for BJP turncoat Singh, has accused Rana of 'selling his soul for money' as he has urged voters to defeat 'Dhanbal with Janbal' (defeat the power of money with power of people) and punish the rebels for betrayal.

During a rally in Himachal's Una district last week, Sukhu had Thursday alleged that the Congress rebels are corrupt and will go behind bars. He even claimed the six Congress rebels and three Independents were sold for Rs 15 crore each.

However, former chief minister P K Dhumal and Anurag Thakur are openly canvassing for Rana, sending the right message to party cadres.

Confident of victory, Rana said, "the Congress cadre is with me and the BJP is also supporting me as our fight is for development and meeting the aspiration of the voters."

Singh, who was also considered close to Dhumal and his son joined the Congress party at the eleventh hour and is now banking upon the support and clout of the current chief minister and his team.

Before being ousted from the assembly recently, Rana had been causing embarrassment to chief minister Sukhu by indirectly raking up the issues like jobs to youth as promised in the manifesto.

In a bid to stir people's sentiments against Rana, Sukhu has been repeating that Rana never wanted anyone to become or remain chief minister from Hamirpur. He said the ex-MLA's first victim was Dhumal and now he was trying to oust him but the gimmick will not work this time.

On other hand, Rana has accused Sukhu of ignoring the elected representatives and giving preference to 'friends', saying it compelled the six Congress MLAs to revolt and vote for the BJP candidate in the Rajya Sabha polls.

He has claimed that his victory is certain as he enjoys full support of the people of the constituency and the Dhumal family and their supporters. He said that he has already toured most parts of the constituency twice and his third round is on the anvil.

His rival Singh, on the other hand, has claimed that he is getting full support of the ex-servicemen and their families and said that Rana had ditched the people of the area, due to which developmental activities were hit in the Sujanpur constituency.

Ex-servicemen, their families and women voters hold the key in this constituency and majority of women voters have always been supporting the BJP, according to Rana.

There are 77,742 voters in the Sujanpur assembly seat, including 38,831 men and 38,911 women, and the voter turnout was 73.74 % in 2022, 75.64 % in 2017 and 69.34 % in 2012.

The by-election would be held simultaneously with Lok Sabha polls on June 1 and counting of votes would take place on June 4.

Lok Sabha Elections 2024 | Will it be Narendra Modi's 'Viksit Bharat' or Rahul Gandhi's I.N.D.I.A? As the world's largest democracy votes to choose its future, track live news, in-depth opinions, and analyses only on Deccan Herald.

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Published 27 May 2024, 10:46 IST

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