Shimla, Oct 3: Considered an invincible fortress of the Congress, the twin reserved Assembly constituencies of Rohru and Rampur in Shimla district present a picture of contrast this time. While Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh still holds sway over the electorate in Rohru constituency, which he has represented for years, there has been a discernible decline in his influence in his home constituency of Rampur.
The Congress started losing ground in the impregnable bastion of Rampur after Virbhadra Singh discarded his protégé Singhi Ram and brought in Nand Lal, currently Chief Parliamentary Secretary. Though Nand Lal won the seat in 2007 and 2012, the margin of victory got reduced. He is likely to be the Congress candidate again and is banking on the support of the Chief Minister.
However, this time, the odds seem to be stacked against him and he may find the going tough, particularly if former minister Singhi Ram, who won from this seat six times in a row since 1982, enters the poll arena. He has become active again and has been campaigning in the constituency for the past one year. He has made his intentions clear to contest the election but is not opening his cards whether he will contest as an Independent or will seek a BJP ticket in case the Congress does not give him a chance.
Prem Singh Draik, a former IAS officer who resigned to contest the elections unsuccessfully in 2012, is a strong contender for the BJP ticket, but there are three others in the race, including Anil Verma, who is said to have RSS backing. Draik lost by a huge margin of 9,471 votes in 2012.The constituency is likely to witness a triangular contest as the CPM has decided to field Vivek Kashyap.
Resentment prevails against sitting MLA Nand Lal, who is being accused of playing the caste card and his failure to get Rampur the status of a district, says Anil Thakur, a businessman and an orchardist.
The opening of Hydro Engineering College at Rampur has also become a thorn in the flesh for the ruling party as the classes are still being held in Sundernagar Engineering College. Besides, the change in route of Srikhand Yatra from Jeori, which has hit the local business of those involved in tourism and allied trades, has also caused resentment.
Rohru has been the pocket borough of Virbhadra Singh ever since he took over as Chief Minister in 1983. Barring the byelection in 2009 held after he resigned on being elected to the Lok Sabha, the Congress has won all the elections from this seat.Congress candidate Mohan Lal Brakta won by the highest margin of 28,415 votes in 2012 simply due to the blessings of Virbhadra.
While Brakta is all set to seek re-election as the Congress candidate, it is uncertain who the BJP will field as half-a-dozen aspirants are vying for the ticket, including some Congress deserters. “It is not the candidate but the face of Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh that matters in this constituency, which was reserved for Scheduled Caste candidates post delimitation in 2010,” said an elderly resident, Jagdish Bashtu.
Encroachments on forestland is a major issue in the area as the Forest Department has been forced to take action to remove encroachments on the directions of the High Court. The people are unhappy with the anti-encroachment drive and blame both the BJP and Congress governments.
The people in general are satisfied with developmental works and give credit to the Chief Minister for the bus stand, new block at Seema College and the upcoming building at the hospital, but poor road connectivity in remote villages and bad condition of link roads is a major issue.
Source Tribune India