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    It’s a high-stakes fight for CM Jai Ram Thakur & Sukh Ram

    Synopsis

    While the Congress has fielded Aashray Sharma, grandson of former union minister Sukh Ram, BJP’s Ram Swaroop Sharma is aiming to retain the seat he won in 2014.

    Jai Ram Thakur
    MANDI: The political contest for the Mandi parliamentary seat in Himachal Pradesh promises to be a high-stakes battle for the BJP, as a defeat to the Congress will not only be seen as a setback for chief minister Jai Ram Thakur in his own constituency, but also as a referendum on his administration over the last 18 months.

    Besides, the loss would also be viewed as a revival of the Congress party in the state.

    While the Congress has fielded Aashray Sharma, grandson of former union minister Sukh Ram, BJP’s Ram Swaroop Sharma is aiming to retain the seat he won in 2014.

    A close confidant of the chief minister, Sharma had defeated political heavyweight Pratibha Singh, wife of former Congress chief minister Virbhadra Singh, in the previous Lok Sabha election.

    What makes the battle interesting is that Sukh Ram, who had joined the BJP just ahead of state elections in 2017, rejoined the Congress earlier this year after his grandson was denied a ticket by the BJP. As a consequence, Sukh Ram’s son Anil Sharma resigned from the Cabinet, although he remains with the BJP and has not campaigned for his son.

    Leaving no stone unturned, Jai Ram Thakur — who earned the distinction of being the first chief minister from the district — is leading from the front with some aggressive campaigning, marked by political salvos against his political opponent.

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    Traditionally a seat fought by candidates from royal families, Mandi is witnessing a battle between two Brahmins this time. The caste factor, however, has taken a backseat as the BJP is riding high on a plank of nationalism and increased popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi after the retaliatory strikes against terrorist camps in Balakot post-Pulwama.

    The rivalry between Sukh Ram and Virbhadra Singh may turn out to be a dampener for Congress. While Singh has publicly declared support and made two public appearances for Aashray Sharma, he does not seem to have buried the hatchet with Sukh Ram, whom he described as “aaya ram, gaya ram” (party hopper).

    While Sukh Ram enjoys goodwill among the electorate for his development projects in Mandi, Virbhadra too holds considerable sway.

    Unfazed by the infighting though, Aashray is confident of a win.

    “Virbhadra ji has given me his blessings. Modi government has failed to honour even a single promise made by it for the state. My grandfather never ditched Congress. There were some issues which have been ironed out after Shri Rahul Gandhi was anointed party president,” Aashray told ET.
    (Catch all the Business News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on The Economic Times.)

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