The BJP’s chief minister face and senior party leader Prem Kumar Dhumal, who has shifted from Hamirpur to Sujanpur Assembly constituency, is facing his old protégé-turned-bête noir Rajinder Rana of the Congress.
Rana, who contested the 2012 election as an Independent and defeated his nearest Congress rival Anita Verma by 14,155 votes, is fighting the battle in his home turf and leaving no stone unturned. Dhumal had contested from Hamirpur in 2012 but this time he is contesting from Sujanpur constituency where women outnumber men by over 2200 voters.
Rana had extended support to Virbhadra Singh after winning the polls last time and had resigned to contest Lok Sabha polls from Hamirpur in 2014 while his wife, who contested the assembly by-election from Sujanpur lost by a thin margin.
BJP’s decision to project Dhumal as a CM face has given a boost to the party’s campaign in all five assembly segments in Hamirpur. Dhumal supporters are upbeat and claim that now it is a cakewalk but Rana and other Congress leaders maintain that their over-confidence was misplaced.
Prestige of both the chief minister and the Lok Sabha member from Hamirpur is at stake in this seat as margin of victory would be crucial Rana was a close confidant of Dhumal for one decade and was appointed as chairman of the Media Advisory Committee when he became chief minister for the first time in 1998 but after denial of ticket in 2012, he entered the fray as an Independent. He parted ways with Dhumal and contested Lok Sabha polls against Anurag Thakur in 2014 as a Congress candidate but lost.
For the BJP, “vote for chief minister” is the main poll plank in Hamirpur district and it has helped the party considerably. Joginder Kumar Thakur (CPI-M), Parveen Thakur (BSP) and Ravinder Singh Dogra (NCP) are also in the fray but the main contest is between the Congress and the BJP