Besides the strong leadership of Prime Minister Narinder Modi, three strongholds on side of the Bhartiya Janta Party indeed add some extra points for their victory possibilities at the Mandi parliamentary constituency in 2019 Lok Sabha polls. First time Chief Minister JaiRam Thakur, former Union Cabinet minister Sukhram and a league of leaders’ tall leaders from the area. Together these three ‘sons of the soil’ factors may add numbers to the rightist team here.
Out of the four Lok Sabha constituencies that belong to the hilly state of Himachal Pradesh, one of the most politically active seats is Mandi. The Mandi Lok Sabha constituency comprises of 17 Vidhan Sabha segments that dot the geography of this region. As per the data the constituency consists of more than 12lac voters and with an average 55% voter turnout (as per records since 1991), more than 8lac voting should be expected in 2019 polls.
Taking average based on data the BJP (without Sukhram by their side) has held around 40% to 45% vote share. Only once in 1989, the party solely touched 50.36% when Maheswar Singh won the seat. Besides that BJP has never crossed 50% vote share on this seat alone. Even when current Member of Parliament RamSwaroop won in 2014, his vote share remained 49.97%.
However, with Sukhram by their side the party has scope to gain in vote share this time. Scrolling data of 1999 polls, Sukhram supported BJP candidate Maheswar Singh after forming Himachal Vikas Congress. Then the party got 62.05% share of the votes polled. His association does make a difference is proven from the fact that later in 2004 Sukhram allied with Congress. It resulted in Pratibha Singh (Congress candidate) earning 53.41% vote share for victory. Hereafter in 2009 Congress (Virbhdra Singh) won the seat but got a vote share of 47%. Some may debate that share went down with Sukhram still on their side. Only to not forget that Sukhram and Virbhdra Singh have been arch political rivals since two decades. Perhaps that explains the low vote shares of Congress in 2009 and 2014 polls.
Most important factor JaiRam Thakur, the chief minister hails from the area. It is the first time an incumbent (from Mandi area) has got this role and has to run the show for another three years in the state. His focus on the Mandi area development as Chief Minister (in the first year) surely adds fuel to his ‘Son of the soil’ image, thus providing a natural impetus. Even historic data supports the claim. In 1984 when Sukhram emerged as tall leader in Himachal Congress to be recognized as ‘son of the soil’, he won this seat with a thumping 67.52% vote share. Again in 1991, when there was likelihood for Sukhram getting Union cabinet minister rank, he won defeating Maheswar Singh.
Third strongholds could be the tall leaders of the BJP in the area. Maheswar Singh emerged in 1989 staking claim of this seat. Not only that he won but also got the BJP more than 50% vote share in this area for the first time. The royal from Kullu must have attributed to the reason that party got barely less than 50% vote share in 2014 election. As he along with other big leaders had turned rebel to form Himachal Lokhit party during the period. Besides, Gobind Thakur from Manali and Ram Lal Markanda from Lahaul & Spiti, both being ministers in the state government, would add up to the preposition.
On the other hand INC being elected 13 times on the seat since independence though reflects that the constituency is a Congress stronghold traditionally. But attributed to the party infighting the current seems miles apart. In dearth of any ‘Son of the Soil’ the Congressmen are left with no other option than trying luck with former Chief Minister ‘Virbhdra Singh’ or his son ‘Vikramditya’ Perhaps the party leadership understands that in this battle very hard to be won, Singh is the only proven credible candidate. Dating back into time, he won Mandi’ with a 71.95% vote share in1971polls. Highest share to be achieved by any victorious candidate on this seat in all times.