With Congress releasing second and final list of nine candidates for the upcoming Himachal Pradesh Assembly polls, dust has almost settled over who will get to contest on the party ticket. The Bharatiya Janata party has already released its list of 68 candidates.
The BJP, despite losing the last Assembly polls, brought in just 12 new faces and has retained those who contested on the party ticket in 2012 Assembly polls. Similarly, despite anti-incumbency fears, the Congress’s list mostly comprises sitting MLAs.
However, many of the contesting candidates won their seats by a wafer-thin margin, resulting in photo-finish results.
From the Kasauli (SC) seat, the BJP has retained its candidate Rajeev Sahzal, who won the seat in 2012 by a thin margin of just 24 votes against Congress’ Vinod Sultanpuri. Former MP KD Sultanpuri's son Vinod has been repeated as a Congress candidate from the constituency.
Bhattiyat was another constituency that witnessed a photo-finish contest. Here BJP’s Vikram Singh Jaryal defeated Congress’ Kuldeep Singh Pathania by a margin of mere 111 votes. Jaryal is preparing again to take on Pathania from the seat.
For Chintpurni Assembly seat, which is earmarked for SC candidate, Balbir Singh is the BJP candidate. Singh Won the seat in 2007 but lost to Congress’ Kuldip Kumar in the last Assembly polls by a slender margin of 438 votes. Kumar is up to defend the seat as the Congress nominee.
BJP turned Independent Pawan Kajal won the Kangra seat in the last assembly polls. A habitual turncoat, this time round he is contesting on the Congress ticket. His victory margin over Congress’ Choudhary Surender Kumar was a mere 563 votes. Kajal is pitted against BJP’s Sanjay Chaudharay who with 23.19% votes was relegated to the third position behind Kajal and Congress’ Surender Kumar Choudhary.
From capital Shimla BJP’s Suresh Bhardwaj edged Harish of Congress by thin margin of 628 votes in 2012. BJP has renominated Bhardwaj against Harbhajan Singh Bhajji, Congress’ state general secretary and MLA from the seat between 2003-07.
Balbir Singh Verma won the Shimla’s Chopal seat as an independent candidate with a slender margin of 747 votes. Verma, a former Congressman merged his Chopal Vikas Manch with the BJP in March this year. He is BJP’s official nominee and is pitted again against Congress’ Dr. Subhash Chand Manglate.
In 2012, Sirmaur district’s Sri Renukaji seat saw pitched contest between Vinay Kumar of the Congress and BJP’s Hirdaya Ram. Kumar won the seat by 655 votes. BJP has changed the candidate and filed Balbir Chauhan from the seat. Runner-up Hirdaya Ram has decided to contest as an independent candidate, making the contest triangular.
Paonta Sahib, another seat in Sirmaur district elected Independent Kirnesh Jung over BJP’s Sukh Ram by a flimsy margin of 790 votes. Jung is Congress’s official candidate against 2012 runner-up Sukh Ram this time around.