Not only his seat is Seraj, there is a lot at stake for Jai Ram Thakur in other constituencies that also fall in his home district of Mandi in Himachal Pradesh. The 57-year-old Chief Minister must defy history and ensure that he leads the party to victory for the second time, when Himachal goes to the polls on November 12.
The ride for Thakur could not be smooth, although his party members believe his track record of delivering development projects gives him a distinct advantage. The party suffered major setbacks a few months ago when Congress sacked Mandi’s parliamentary seat of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Pratibha Singh, wife of former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, defeated her rival candidate to grab the seat. Thakur has to turn it around.
“If he manages to lead the party to victory in most of the seats in the district, he will gain some strength within the party. He has his opponents, but a win could seal his place in the party as the numero uno,” said one leader.
Thakur is using all his power not only in Seraj, where he has been winning since 1998, but also in neighboring constituencies.
WHAT CAN WORK?
In the past month, he has staged about 15 demonstrations, five of them after election dates were announced. So what could work for him?
Thank you Himachal Pradesh. From the AIIMS visit to a memorable Dussehra program, here are highlights from yesterday. pic.twitter.com/n3YqMFVmtC
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 6, 2022
“The region has seen a spurt in tourism. Look at Seraj and how it has become a major tourist destination. The Mandi region has also seen a lot of infrastructure development. The results can be seen on the ground,” said Arvind Purohit, a resident of Mandi. The CM has developed a tourism culture center and nature park in Seraj Valley to attract tourists.
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What has also helped the party in the region is the establishment of the AIIMS hospital in the adjacent district of Bilaspur.
However, the party is aware of the anti-incumbency that could have arisen. Some relate to issues such as delays in the construction of the government’s Degree College building in Thachi and the slow pace of construction work on the government’s Degree College building in Gadagusai, which the government is facing.
Rebel candidates fighting from some seats in the region also pose a challenge. “The presence of rebels can pose a serious challenge and that is why, apart from Thakur, even the party leadership was recently involved in appeasing some of them,” said one leader.
The party tries to learn from Mandi’s defeat in the Bypoll. “During those elections, the party invented the ‘Meri Mandi’ campaign line, which backfired. There was a wave of sympathy for Pratibha Singh as the polls were held just after Virbhadra’s death. The party failed to do that. This time, the focus is fully on packing the double engine growth in the area and what Thakur as Chief Minister has done for the well-being of the region,” said a member of the CM’s planning team.
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