Mandi: The assembly election in Himachal Pradesh, polling for which is underway since Saturday morning, is being considered to be a litmus test for Chief Minister Jairam Thakur, who is the main face of the ruling BJP’s ‘mission’ to retain power in the hill state for a consecutive second term. Often dubbed as an “accidental CM” by people owing to the circumstances that led to his elevation to the top post in the 2017 assembly elections, Thakur also hopes to break the trend of incumbent party not returning to power since the 1990s. Amid big claims and counter-claims by the ruling BJP and the opposition parties, it remains beyond doubt that the high-stake electoral contest here is a big test for Jairam who has risen from the ranks in the saffron camp to the chief minister’s post.

As the voting began, Thakur cast his vote at Bagshyiad in Mandi`s Seraj and expressed confidence that the Bharatiya Janata Party will return to power in the state. “I`m confident that people want to repeat this govt. I have started receiving greeting wishes this morning. I received PM Modi`s message a while ago, he gave me his blessings & best wishes,” Thakur said. “I am confident of a grand win. Feedback is great. Most importantly, people are casting their votes peacefully,” the CM said.

His assembly constituency – Seraj – has become a high-profile seat as Thakur has been a sitting MLA from the seat since 2012. This time, he has been pitted against Congress candidate Chetram Thakur. Jairam Thakur had defeated Chetram Thakur in the Assembly elections in 2017.The BJP leader had secured 35,519 votes (56.27 per cent), while Ram had got 24,265 votes (38.44 per cent).

The seat is witnessing a tripartite contest with the arrival of the Aam Aadmi Party, besides Congress, in the picture, which has fielded Gita Nand Thakur (an advocate by profession) on the seat. However, it is to be seen the kind of impact the AAP candidate makes with the Chief Minister fighting against the anti-incumbency. CPI(M) has also pitted Mahinder Rana in the contest.

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Seraj is a part of the Mandir Lok Sabha constituency, which belongs to Congress. Former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh`s widow Pratibha Singh, who represents the Lok Sabha seat, has been campaigning for Congress` Chetram Thakur. It would be interesting to see if she is able to pull off the turf which presently belongs to the BJP (Jairam Thakur).

From humble beginnings to Himachal CM 

Jairam comes from a very humble family hailing from Himachal’s Mandi district. He began his political career with the ABVP, the students wing of the RSS, in the state and was appointed as its joint secretary in 1986. He had been the ABVP organising secretary for Jammu & Kashmir during 1989-93. He went on to become the president of the state BJP Yuva Mocha (BJYM), the youth wing of the party. Subsequently, Jairam was inducted into the state BJP, where he rose from the position of the Mandi district chief to the state party president in 2006.

Jairam has won five consecutive Assembly polls from Chachiot and Seraj (delimited constituency of Chachiot) in Mandi district since 1998. He was also the panchayati raj and rural development minister during 2009-2012 in the previous BJP government. He is married to Dr Sadhana Thakur, a government doctor by profession, from Jaipur and has two daughters studying medicine. Thakur rose to be chief minister in 2017 when the BJP won the assembly polls, but CM Prem Kumar Dhumal lost his seat, paving the way for his ‘accidental” rise.

Voting underway in Himachal Pradesh

Voting to elect the new government in Himachal Pradesh spread across 68 seats in the state began on Saturday morning at 8 am amid tight security in place. A total of 55,92,828 electors who can cast their votes till 5 pm today will decide the fate of 412 candidates who are in the fray.Out of the total number of electorates, 27,37,845 are women, 28,54,945 men and 38 were third-gender. This time, the representation of woman candidates is 24.

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The high-voltage campaigning by political parties had ended on November 10, following which it`s up to the electorate of Himachal Pradesh to decide the political fate of the candidates today. The fight is in between the ruling BJP in the state which is looking to retain power ditching the trend of the alternate party coming to power every five years since 1982, and Congress which is banking on its `10 guarantees` that the party listed out in its manifesto to take them home. 

Aam Aadmi Party is in line looking to leave a mark in the state and thus contesting on all the 68 seats alone. The challenge for the ruling BJP will be to buck anti-incumbency and change the trend of the alternate government. Besides these three parties, parties like Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India (CPI) and Rashtriya Devbhumi Party (RDP) are in the fray.

BJP brought star campaigners like Union Home Minister Amit Shah, party chief Jagat Prakash Nadda and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath for the polls. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also campaigned in the hill state. Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also hit the ground along with other top leaders of the party including Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel.

According to Election Commission, a total of 7,881 polling stations have been set up for today`s polls. The Kangra district has a maximum of 1,625 polling stations while the Lahaul-Spiti district has the lowest 92. There are 7,235 polling stations in rural and 646 polling stations in urban areas.

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Meanwhile, 67 companies of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) comprising 6,700 personnel and 15 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) companies have been deployed for holding free and fair Assembly polls in Himachal Pradesh.

Besides this, 50,000 government employees have been put on poll duty. As many as 25,000 police officers are also stationed across the state.Teams from the National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) and the State Disaster Relief Force (SDRF) comprising 800 personnel have also been posted.

In 2017, BJP swept the Himachal polls, bagging 44 of the total 68 seats while Congress managed to get just 21 seats. 

(With Agency Inputs)

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I4K Staff

India 4 Kashmir is a Pan-India movement to reclaim our lost ground and rehabilitate common Indians in Kashmir with dignity and honour.

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