The hilly state of Himachal Pradesh will go to polls in the last phase of 2019 Lok Sabha election on May 19. Despite having only four seats, the state bears importance for both BJP and Congress due to high stakes and candidates contesting polls. A total of 45 candidates are contesting polls for four Lok Sabha seats, including Shimla (reserved), Hamirpur, Mandi, and Kangra. A relatively small state in terms of population, Himachal Pradesh has always seen the bipolar elections, and power keeps shifting between the BJP and the Congress. This is the first time archrivals and veteran leaders Virbhadra Singh and Prem Kumar Dhumal are not contesting polls from any of the Lok Sabha seats.
The BJP has fielded Suresh Kashyap from Shimla after dropping last time's winner and two-time MP Virender Kashyap, while the Congress gave the ticket to veteran leader Dhani Ram Shandil. Virender Kashyap had last time defeated Congress' Mohanlal Brakta by a margin of 84,187 votes. Since the seat is reserved, both these candidates belong to the Koli community covered under the Scheduled Castes. Both of them are also military veterans. While Shandil retired as Colonel of the Indian Army, Kashyap served as a senior non-commissioned officer of the Indian Air Force.
In Hamirpur Lok Sabha constituency, BJP has again given the ticket to Anurag Thakur, BJP bigwig and former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal's son. Anurag this time is fighting for his political survival due to a huge anti-incumbency factor. The Congress has fielded Ram Lal Thakur, a Congress MLA from Sri Naina Deviji Assembly seat, against Anurag. The task this time is tougher for the three-time MP Anurag Thakur due to multiple factors. First is anti-incumbency wave against the BJP, which has failed to deliver on some of its promises, including an increase in import duty on apple and allied products and hike in pension. Second is infighting within the BJP. Hamirpur comprises 17 Assembly segments. Many of them, including Bilaspur, don't want Anurag to become MP as he's supposed to be a potential candidate for the CM's post after Dhumal. Many BJP people in Bilaspur, which is Union Minister JP Nadda's home district, want Nadda to become the future CM. Damaging Anurag's chances could play well for them. Anurag's father and two-time chief minister of state, PK Dhumal had suffered loss at the hands of Congress' Rajinder Rana in 2017 Assembly polls.
Kangra seat also includes 17 Assembly segments, of which 13 are in Kangra district only. The BJP has fielded Kishan Kapoor from the seat while the Congress has given the ticket to Pawan Kajal, a former BJP leader who joined the Congress before 2017 Assembly polls after he was denied ticket. A BJP bastion, Kangra has lesser chances of going in the Congress fold. The saffron party had this time denied ticket to the veteran leader and former Union minister Shanta Kumar, who was a four-time MP from the seat.
From Mandi Lok Sabha seat, it is a contest between Aashray Sharma of the Congress and sitting BJP MP Ram Swaroop Sharma. Interestingly, Aashray is the son of Anil Sharma, a sitting BJP MLA from Mandi and the grandson of former Union minister Sukh Ram. Anil Sharma was also a minister in the previous Virbhadra Singh government. He, along with his father, deserted the party just before the Assembly election in 2017, only to get the BJP ticket from Mandi. Shocking everyone, Sukh Ram along with his grandson met Rahul Gandhi recently and bagged the Congress ticket for Aashray. Analysts suggest that more than Congress and BJP, it is a contest between Sukh Ram and current Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, who also hails from Mandi.