Palampur in Himachal Pradesh is set to witness an interesting contest in the Assembly polls scheduled for November 9, when two new faces from the ruling Congress party and the opposition BJP will fight a former MLA.
Both the candidates are debutantes in the assembly polls. They face challenge from former BJP legislator Praveen Sharma, who joined the electoral battle as an Independent candidate after he was refused ticket by the BJP.
Sharma could dampen the prospects of Goswami, who is seen as an outsider as she hails from the adjoining Baijnath constituency, reserved for a Scheduled Caste candidate. “The people of Palampur have asked me to stay in the poll. The top leadership of the BJP offered me chairmanship of boards and corporations, but I refused as I wanted to serve the people than to sit in a room,” he said.
Sharma is believed to be close to veteran BJP leader Shanta Kumar, a two-time Himachal Pradesh chief minister. Palampur, a hill station in the Kangra Valley, derives its name from the local word ‘palum’, meaning lots of water. Numerous streams flow from the mountains to the plains from Palampur. It is also Shanta Kumar’s hometown.
Goswami claimed she lobbied for greater representation for women with her party. “It is only me, who requested the national leadership of BJP to give at least 10 assembly seats to women in the assembly polls and I am grateful to the national leadership that it has given six assembly seats to women.”
“I am a dedicated worker of the BJP for three decades. I have worked in the state women commission in 1999 and then worked as state president of the Mahila Morcha. Now, as a BJP candidate I shall prove my worth by bringing the much-needed development to Palampur,” she said.
She is said to be close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with whom she worked when he was party in-charge of Himachal Pradesh. It is expected here that Modi may address a rally in Palampur in her support.
Ashish Butail, 39, has been given the responsibility of carrying on the political legacy of his family. His father is a respected leader, but the issue of the Congress party promoting dynastic politics has not gone down well with party workers.
Moreover, the Congress candidate could face opposition from Gokul Butail, his cousin and IT adviser to Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh. Gokul Butail had applied for a ticket, but was denied.
Ashish Butail’s father won the Palampur assembly seat five times out of the 11 elections held after the inclusion of the Kangra district in Himachal Pradesh from Punjab in 1966. “My father, BBL Butail, has served the people of the area for 50 years. He has a clean image. During the past five years, crores of rupees have been spent here on development-related work by him,” Ashish Butail said.
“Now it’s my duty to complete the pending work, before starting the new ones. I hope the people of Palampur will send me to the Himachal Vidhan Sabha in view of our family’s ties with the people and the work done in the area,” he added.
BBL Butail lost once to Shanta Kumar in 1990 and Parveen Sharma – a leader carved out by Shanta Kumar – in 2007. Butail was also the richest MLA in the 2012 elections in the state. He owned properties worth Rs 150 crore, besides other movable assets.
The polling in the state would be held in a single phase on November 9 and the counting of votes would be taken up on December 18.