Congress leader and Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and Union Minister Anurag Thakur (BJP) will on Wednesday campaign for their respective party candidates in the final leg of canvassing for the Himachal bypolls.
While Thakur will campaign in Jubbal, Baghel will canvas in Arki Solan.
The battle in Mandi is between the saffron party’s Brigadier Khushal Thakur (retired), a decorated officer who played a crucial role in the 1999 Kargil war, and Congress’ Pratibha Singh, a two-time MP from Mandi and wife of former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh.
Eyeing sympathy votes, Pratibha Singh, who is banking largely on her first-time legislator son Vikramaditya Singh for campaigning, is seeking votes on the development carried out by her late husband during his three stints as an MP from Mandi and six terms as the Chief Minister.
Pratibha Singh, who lost the Mandi seat in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, is leaving no opportunity to remind the electorate that her victory in Mandi by-election “will be a tribute to him (Virbhadra Singh)".
Hitting out at Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur for in his Seraj Assembly constituency, she said that Virbhadra Singh had contributed a lot to the development of the area.
“I am saddened to see the poor condition of roads. It appears that BJP pays no attention towards the problem of the common man," she said, adding the state needed “majboot" (strong) Lok Sabha members, not “majboor" (helpless) leaders.
The seat — a prestige for the Chief Minister as it falls in his home district — fell vacant with the death of two-time BJP MP Ram Swaroop Sharma, who defeated Congress candidate Ashray Sharma, the grandson of former Telecommunications Minister Sukh Ram in his electoral debut, with a record margin.
Countering the Congress candidate, Chief Minister Thakur replied: “People want a majboot candidate as their MP, not a majboor candidate."
“The Congress candidate says that she did not want to contest the election. If she was not keen, she should not contest it," he said, while seeking votes for party candidate Brigadier Khushal Thakur, a Kargil War hero.