Kangana Ranaut's Himachal Challenge - BJP Dissidents, Erstwhile Royals

BJP leader and former minister Ram Lal Markanda has resigned from the party (File)


The influence of BJP dissidents and the erstwhile royal families in the Mandi Lok Sabha constituency can make the road tough for Bollywood actor turned-politician Kangana Ranaut who is making her electoral debut as the BJP candidate from the high-profile seat.

Maheshwar Singh, a former BJP state president, three times MP and scion of the erstwhile royal family of Kullu, has asked the party high command to review its decision to field Kangana Ranaut while BJP dissidents who were denied a ticket in 2022 assembly polls and fought as Independents held a meeting to chalk out the strategy.

BJP leader and former minister Ram Lal Markanda has resigned from the party along with his supporters after Congress rebel Ravi Thakur who voted in favor of the BJP in Rajya Sabha elections was given a ticket for assembly bypolls from Lahaul and Spiti.

“I have left the BJP along with my supporters and would definitely contest the assembly polls,” he had told PTI adding that there is a possibility of him contesting from the Congress party.

Mandi Parliament seat comprises 17 assembly seats — three tribal assembly constituencies of Kinnaur, Lahaul and Spiti and Bharmour in Chamba district, all four assembly segments of Kullu district – Kullu, Manali, Banjar and Anni and nine assembly constituencies of Sundernagar, Balh, Mandi, Darang, Jogindernagar, Nachan, Seraj, Karsog and Sarkaghat assembly constituencies in Mandi district and Rampur in Shimla district.

Out of the 17 assembly seats, eight are reserved for Schedule Tribes and Schedule Castes.

The Mandi Lok Sabha constituency has mostly remained the battlefield of erstwhile royal families and their scions have won 13 out of the 19 elections including two by-elections held for the seat.

As Kangana Ranaut launched her election campaign with a roadshow and rally on Friday, senior BJP leader Maheshwar Singh urged the BJP high command to review its decision to field the actor who has made “no contribution” and claimed that he had been promised the ticket.

“Kangana has made no contribution to the party and the people of Mandi have become vocal and are asking for a review of the decision on social media,” Maheshwar Singh told PTI on Saturday.

“Talks are on with the BJP high command on reviewing their decision,” he said, adding, “I was earlier promised the ticket”.

Hiteshwar Singh, son of Maheshwar Singh, former BJP general Secretary Ram Singh and former Anni MLA Kishori Lal – all three who contested the 2022 assembly polls as Independents after being denied a ticket by the BJP – held a meeting with other disgruntled BJP leaders in the parliamentary constituency after Kangana’s candidature was announced.

Congress state chief and sitting MP from Mandi seat Pratibha Singh had earlier pulled out of the race for the party ticket, maintaining that the ground reality is not favourable and workers are disheartened.

However, the wife of former chief minister Virbhadra Singh and mother of Himachal Pradesh PWD minister Vikramaditya Singh from the erstwhile Bushar Royal family has changed her stance after Kangana was announced as the BJP candidate and said that she “will follow the directions of the Congress high command”.

“People have a sentimental attachment with former chief minister Virbhadra Singh and that is the reason why people always support our family and want somebody from this family to contest this election,” she told PTI on Friday.

The silver lining for Kangana Ranaut is that BJP leader Khushal Thakur, a Kargil war hero who lost to Pratibha Singh by a margin of 7,490 votes in the by-elections held in November 2021, has backed her candidature.

“I am supporting Kangana. There are over one lakh ex-servicemen in this Parliament constituency,” he told the PTI on Saturday.

Kangana Ranaut, who addressed her first election meeting on Friday, called herself a “daughter and sister” of the people of Mandi and claimed she was constantly “bullied” for hailing from Himachal Pradesh.

“I have constructed a small Devi temple in my village and have built a house in Manali. I had struggled and worked hard to carve a niche for myself,” Kangana Ranaut said.

“It is not that my father or husband is chief minister and I have joined politics,” she said in an oblique attack on Pratibha Singh and Vikramaditya Singh who had earlier compared her to Sunny Deol, another actor-politician in the BJP camp who has been criticised for his alleged absence from his Lok Sabha constituency.

Those elected in the past from the seat are Raj Kumai Amrit Kaur of Kapurthala dynasty and Raja Joginder Sen Bahadur of the erstwhile princely state of Mandi (both elected once); Raja Lalit Sen of Suket represented Mandi twice, Virbhadra Singh and Pratibha Singh (three times each) and Raja Maheshwar Sing (thrice).

Former Union minister Sukh Ram( who won thrice), Ram Swaroop (twice) and Ganga Singh were the only Mandi MPs not from the erstwhile royalty. 

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)


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