BJP MP Anurag Thakur faces a challenge on his home turf from a businessman-turned-politician who, till recently, was close to his father and former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal. Congress candidate Rajinder Rana, 48, won the assembly polls from Sujanpur as an independent candidate after being denied a ticket by the BJP. Now that he has resigned as an MLA, Rana hopes that his ‘social work’ will help him sail through the Lok Sabha polls.
“People are impressed with my humility,” he claims. “There is no Modi wave in Hamirpur, rather an anti-incumbency factor against Thakur,” he says.
Banking on Virbhadra Singh’s ability to woo voters — he has the Chief Minister’s blessings as party candidate from Hamirpur — Rana says that unlike Thakur, who is more of a cricketer and celebrity, he is a ‘humble servant’ and ‘not a politician’.
“I never thought of contesting the Lok Sabha polls and was happy serving the people of Sujanpur. But when I looked at my report card as an MLA from Sujanpur — a constituency I started serving barely 15 months ago — and got feedback from Hamirpur about Thakur, I made up my mind to contest the LS elections. People want a man who works for them, not someone who builds cricket stadium, travels across countries, and appears on TV shows with film stars,” says Rana.
Thakur has dismissed both Rana’s candidature and even sent him a notice for levelling defamatory charges. He takes credit for building a world class cricket stadium that, he says, has put Himachal Pradesh on international tourist map. During his election campaigns, Thakur mentions corruption charges against the Congress and speaks on scams and 10-years of lacklustre rule of Manmohan Singh-led government at the Centre. “It’s not a question of electing Anurag Thakur, it’s about saving the nation by ousting the Congress. Why should I talk about Rana? Who knows him beyond Sujanpur?” he says.
However, it wasn’t long ago that Rana was Dhumal’s trusted man and part of his campaign team for both Assembly and Lok Sabha polls. Rana was appointed the chairman of state media board by Dhumal. “I was very loyal to Dhumal, but he did not like my interest in contesting polls in 2012. That was the breaking point between us,” claims Rana.
He won the Sujanpur seat by 14,166 votes, and joined the Congress after polls. Now close to Virbhadra, Rana got maximum number of projects cleared by the CM for his constituency. These include creation of a civil sub-divisional office — a demand he had raised with Dhumal. Rana has brought out a 33-page booklet on his work at Sujanpur. His wife, Anita, meanwhile, is preparing to contest the Assembly bypoll from the seat as a Congress candidate.