Parties face rebellion in 4 Kullu seats as people complain about land acquisition and road projects
A famous tourist spot on the world map, Kullu is the largest valley in the mountainous region of Himachal Pradesh and has four constituencies – Manali, Kullu, Banjar and Anni. The BJP has the rebel issue in all four seats in this district and the Congress has a rebel candidate in Anni, one reserved seat, and the AAP and CPI(M) are also contesting here.
While the widening of the national highways is a project on the minds of people in all constituencies, families displaced for land acquisition during the 2012-2017 Congressional rule are still up in arms against the Congressional government of era and subsequent BJP regime. Hundreds of displaced families have demanded better compensation and the campaign has also garnered support. A Sangrash Samiti was also formed by the BJP to address local grievances, but the BJP leader who led the panel, Mahendra Thakur, is now a rebel Manali candidate. Residents lament that several road projects that were launched long before have yet to see the light of day.
The Bhubho Jot tunnel, to connect Kullu with Kangra, was announced two decades ago and the Jalori Jot tunnel, to connect Kullu with Kangra, also proposed two decades ago, both remained non-starters. Similarly, the Bijli Mahadev Cable Car in Bhunter, Kullu to reach the famous Bijli Mahadev Temple, announced about a decade ago, is yet to be completed. In June 2020, the project was pegged at Rs 150 crore and in May 2022, when the project got all the final approvals, its cost was mentioned as Rs 200 crore. These incomplete projects are also a major bone of contention for people here. Here is an overview of the four constituencies of Kullu District.
Current MP: Sunder Singh Thakur (INC)
In the fray
BJP: Narottam Thakur
Inc: Sunder Singh Thakur
PA: Sher Singh Shera Negi
CPI (M): Hotam Singh Sonkhla
Independent: Ram Singh Thakur
Sunder Thakur of Congress had lost the election in 2012 but in 2017, despite a BJP outpouring, he defeated top BJP leader Maheshwar Singh Thakur.
Amid great drama, the BJP nominated Narottam Thakur as its candidate. While the BJP was initially inclined towards Maheshwar, his son Hiteshwar Singh Thakur filed papers as an independent from Banjar constituency which greatly spoiled Maheshwar’s chances as he also started to get a support for his son. Subsequently, on the last day of the withdrawal of candidacies, the BJP found its candidate in the person of Narrotam Thakur, a government teacher, who took an early retirement to join politics. Maheshwar eventually withdrew his papers and Narottam became the parachute candidate. In the midst of this fiasco, there is Ram Singh Thakur, a rebel BJP candidate in the fray. He contested on the BJP ticket in 2012 but lost the election. As a result, he did not receive a ticket in 2017. While the party appeased him last time, this time he chose the independent.
Incumbent MP: Govind Singh Thakur (BJP)
In the fray
BJP: Govind Singh Thakur
Inc: Bhuvneshwar Gaur
PA: Anurag Prarthi
Independent: Mahendra Thakur
Also in this seat, the BJP has a rebel candidate in the person of Mahendra Singh Thakur, who led the agitation of the people displaced by the four-lane highway projects. To be at the forefront of the movement, the BJP denied him a ticket and he is now running as an independent. As AAP candidate Anurag Prarthi left Congress, the BJP decided to go with incumbent MP Govind Singh Thakur. The candidate for Congress is Bhuvneshwar Gaur, son of former agriculture minister Raj Krishna Gaur.
Incumbent MP: Surendar Shourie
In the fray
BJP: Surendar Shourie
Inc: Khimi Ram
PA: Neeraj Saini
Independent: Hiteshwar Thakur
Hiteshwar Singh Thakur, a three-time member of the zila parishad and son of BJP leader Maheshwar Singh Thakur, is running as an independent candidate this time. Hiteshwar’s wife, Vibha Singh, is the independent member of the zila parishad as the neighborhood has been reserved for women. Although the BJP trusted its incumbent MP, Congress gave the ticket to renegade Khimi Ram who was a BJP MP in 2003 and 2007.
Incumbent MP: Kishori Lal (BJP)
In the fray
BJP: Lokendra Kumar
Inc: Bansi Lal Kaushal
AAP Dr Inder Paul
CPI(M) Devki Nand
Independent: Kishori Lal
Independent: Paras Ram
Incumbent BJP MP Kishori Lal is now a rebel candidate and is running as an independent and Paras Ram of Congress is another rebel who is running as an independent. Paras Ram challenged the Congressional ticket in 2017 and was defeated. Although the BJP fielded Lokendra Kumar, sources said the local BJP unit was not happy with the move. Congress also faces opposition for their candidate Bansi Lal Kaushal. Many local Congress unit leaders are campaigning for Paras Ram and six party members have even been suspended for it.