The main focus of this by-election would be the parliamentary seat of Mandi, where the prestige of Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and the family of former chief minister the late Virbhadra Singh is directly at stake. Six candidates are vying in the election. this constituency – Brig Khushal Chand Thakur (ret) of BJP, Pratibha Singh of Congress, Ambika Shyam of Rashtriya Lokniti Party, Munshi Ram Thakur of Himachal Jankranti Party and independent candidates Anil Kumar and Subhash Mohan Snehi. However, the main contest will remain between Thakur of BJP and Pratibha of Congress.
Both Congress and the BJP face dissent at this seat. In the last two legislative elections of 2014 and 2019, the BJP won this seat. Although the Chief Minister is focused on maintaining the party’s winning streak, it would still be a well-attended contest. The BJP faces the challenge of pacifying voters on inflation issues, in addition to dealing with the emotional card played by Congress on behalf of Virbhadra.
The road is not so easy for Congress, as voters assess Pratibha’s performance as an MP during her last two terms. Mandi’s parliamentary seat is one of the most difficult and remote constituencies in the country, and some villages lack road connectivity and lack development.
In the Arki assembly constituency of Solan District, Ratan Singh Pal (BJP), Sanjay Awasthi (Congress) and Jeet Ram (Independent) are in the fray. However, here too the main contest is expected between the BJP and Congress. The presence of dissidents, who have been denied tickets, has become a source of concern for the BJP and Congress as they can spoil the calculations of these two parties.
The Congress ticket to Awasthi sparked the revolt of Rajender Thakur, a staunch Virbhadra loyalist, and his expulsion from the party along with his supporters. Likewise, the BJP gave Ratan Singh Pal a ticket, much to the chagrin of former MPP Govind Ram Sharma and his supporters. Although Union Minister Anurag Thakur tried to pacify Sharma, the latter distanced himself from the campaign.
In the Fatehpur headquarters of Kangra district, Baldev Thakur (BJP), Bhawani Singh Pathania (Congress), Pankaj Kumar Darshi (HJP) and independent candidates Ashok Kumar Somal and Rajan Sushant are in the fray. A triangular competition is expected here between Thakur, Pathania and Sushant. Here, too, the presence of dissidents is a worrying factor for both the BJP and Congress.
Among the four running candidates from the Jubbal-Kotkhai constituency of Shimla district are Neelam Saraik (BJP), Rohit Thakur (Congress), Chetan Singh Bragta and Suman Kadam (independent candidates). A triangular competition is expected between Bragta and the BJP and Congress candidates.
Webcast for 50% of polling stations
During these by-elections, 50% of the polling stations will be connected by webcast, which would be available in 1,383 polling stations out of 2,796 set up for the by-elections. Six companies of paramilitary forces were stationed to ensure the fair and peaceful conduct of the state elections. Two companies would be deployed in the parliamentary constituency of Mandi, while one company each would represent the seats of the Jubbal-Kotkhai, Arki and Fatehpur assemblies.
Voters would exercise their right to vote in 2,796 polling stations. Of these, 48 were declared sensitive and 267 as very sensitive. State police personnel as well as paramilitary forces are said to be involved in monitoring sensitive and highly sensitive polling stations and EVMs, VVPATs.