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High-stakes battle for Jai Ram Thakur in Himachal

IANS  |  Shimla 

Himachal Pradesh's four parliamentary seats -- Mandi, Hamirpur, and Shimla -- that vote in the seventh and final phase of polling for the Lok Sabha elections on Sunday, have become a high-stakes battle for the BJP's star and first-time Chief

With the electorate, traditionally in the Lok Sabha polls, favouring the party at the helm in the state, these elections are being seen as a referendum on Himachal Pradesh's 17-month- old BJP government.

The BJP wrested from the in December 2017, winning 44 seats in the 68-member Assembly. The won 21 seats, independents two and the one.

While in Mandi, and Shimla, it's about steering his party to victory, in it's a battle of supremacy between the Chief and his two-time predecessor Prem Kumar Dhumal, who has almost been marginalised in state after a humiliating defeat in the 2017 Assembly polls.

From Kangra, the largest Lok Sabha constituency in the state in terms of voters, the BJP has fielded Cabinet Kishan Kapoor, 68, after dropping veteran leader Shanta Kumar, against two-time Pawan Kajal, 44.

In the Shimla (reserved) seat, it is an ex-serviceman versus an ex-serviceman. Retired Colonel Dhani Ram Shandil, 78, is the Congress candidate against nominee and former (IAF) Suresh Kashyap, 48.

In Hamirpur, Dhumal is trying to ensure a fourth term for his son Anurag Thakur, former state and national bodies. Pitted against Anurag Thakur, 44, is ex-and five-time Congress

Sitting and the Chief Minister's confidante is seeking a second term from He is contesting against Congress greenhorn Ashray Sharma, who is the grandson of former Telecom Minister

Sukh Ram, a Congress veteran joined the BJP just before the Assembly elections, but defected back after his grandson was denied a ticket.

Ashray's father still remains in the saffron party and though he has not campaigned either for his son or for his party in these elections, his father is more than making up for it.

At 91, he is the oldest in the Lok Sabha elections in Playing the emotional card, he often breaks down on stage and tells the voters: "My son and Ashray's father could not attend the rally, but his blessings are always with him."

Six-time former joined the high-decibel campaign for Ashray this week. Though a little late in the day, the Congress veteran asked to join his son's campaign.

Seraj, the constituency, falls in which was once a Congress stronghold. It is also the lone seat where the (Marxist) is also in the fray.

"It is a do-or-die battle for to retain the seat and that too with the highest margin in the state," a told IANS.

He said the was devoting most of his time and to Mandi in comparison to the three other seats in the state to ensure the maximum lead.

Political observers say that while the Congress is raking up local issues and on the anti-incumbency of the BJP MPs, the saffron party is completely on the factor.

The however, denies any anti-incumbency. "There is more zeal this time to win with bigger margins and Modi's name alone will win the Lok Sabha elections. All the other issues are secondary," he told IANS.

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First Published: Fri, May 17 2019. 18:46 IST