Dharamshala, Nov 6
The abode of the Tibetan Spiritual Guru, his holiness Dalai lama is deeply divided into three communities: dominant Gaddi (Nomadic shepherd ), Chaudhary (OBCs) and Locals. In this poll, Congress has relied upon a three-time member of the assembly and former Urban Development, Town and Country Planning Minister Sudhir Sharma, who is an outsider. Sharma is the son of former senior Congress leader late Pt. Sant Ram. He took a short leave from public life when he denied contesting the 2019 bye poll from the seat after sitting MLA Kishon Kapoor contested Lok Sabha and was chosen.
The ruling BJP did not field sitting party MLA Vishal Nehria, a young Turk uplifted from the ABVP and from the Gaddi community. Making his debut in 2019 was chosen in a triangular contest. The ruling party dumped Nehria in this poll and put Rakesh Chaudhary into the fray, who contested an independent in 2019. Chaudhary had got around 18000 votes while securing the number two spot.
Being a member of the second largest OBC community, Chaudhary is expected to consolidate this vote bank in case his victory is to be ensured. Keeping this aspect in mind BJP may have replaced Nehria in the seat. The contest, however, seems to be triangular after the entry of an Independent Gaddi (highest populated community) candidate Vipan Kumar Nehria.
A retired professor of HPU, Kulwant Singh Rana also is in the fray from the AAP, including a total of eight candidates.
Almost in his 50s, Sudhir Sharma is trying his luck for the fifth time. He joined public life after his father from the Baijnath constituency won it twice in 2003-2007, 2007 -2012 and from Dharmshala from 2012-2017. He lost to Krishan Kapoor in 2017. As an urban development Minister and Local MLA, his main achievement was to bring Dharmshala under the Smart City project and later, the town was declared Municipal Corporation. However, the community combinations and short absentia from public life are against him as he declined to be in the fray in 2019. Though his merits include being experienced, he is also one of the contenders for Chief Ministerial faces in the present elections among seven other top leaders of his party. The proximity of Sharma to Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi and his decent behaviour add to his merits. He is only an outsider among the contestants who could have the ability to sail the party to victory and be shortlisted for combat. Like his father, Sharma was considered a loyalist to Virbhadra Singh, the popular leader in the Kangra district, especially in Dharmshala.
The electoral profile of Dharmshala of 82895 includes 41476-males and 41418- females, and one other voter. Local constituents say that it may be any side game on the electoral profile of communities. Parties always allot tickets according to this community profile in this constituency.
BJP decided to wield confidence in OBCs compared to Sharma, and Independent Gaddi may dent him further, making the contest triangular. The constituency is the second state capital town dominated by employees, ex-servicemen and pensioners. Issues like OPS, Agniveers and employment are on the lips of the vocal constituents however most of them evade queries about the outcome of this election.
The International Cricket stadium Dharmshala, Ropeway, and Smart City projects are the main poll planks of the BJP in the elections. Prime Minister has addressed rallies in the town. Dropping Vishal Nehria as the Gaddi community’s representative was opposed initially, but he withdrew from the race as the party now provided him solace. Nehria’s personal life was also in trouble due to his estranged wife, and an FIR registered against him may have attributed to the run out from the race. But the resentment in the dominant community could not be countered as an Independent Gaddi candidate Vipin Singh Nehria is a formidable contestant. BJP is also relying upon him to create a major loss to Sudhir Sharma to counter the votes of the Gaddi community and relying upon local and OBCs in the electoral battle.
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