Congress jittery as voter turnout low in Mandi stronghold areas

Pratibha Chauhan

Tribune News Service

Shimla, October 31

The low voter turnout in Congress stronghold areas in Mandi is giving anxious moments to party leaders even as they assert that price rise was the single most important factor which decided the voting pattern in their favour.

The ruling BJP seems confident of retaining the Mandi parliamentary seat with relatively better voting in their strongholds like Seraj, Assembly segment of Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, Nachan and Sundernagar. The fact that the Chief Minister has decided to remain in Mandi for counting on November 2 also shows the BJP's confidence.

Even though the overall polling of 57.17 per cent in the Mandi segment, comprising 17 Assembly constituencies, was much along the expected lines, relatively low turnout in Rampur, Congress citadel, has become a cause of worry for the Congress camp.

The Congress was hoping to get a massive lead from Rampur, which happens to be the hometown of six-time Chief Minister Virbhdara Singh so that it could negate the lead the BJP would get from Seraj, Chief Minister's home turf.

"Normally in a bypoll, the polling percentage is less. In 2013 Mandi parliamentary bypoll, there was 51 per cent polling, so this time it is better at 57.17 pc," said the Chief Minister here today. He reasoned that in any by-poll, the enthusiasm among voters is less as compared to the general election.

However, Thakur also said the Congress tried its level best to make price rise a big issue. "But I want to say that prices were high even during the Congress rule when onion was sold at Rs 110/kg. So people do understand the issue," he remarked.

The polling this time has, however, been better that the by-poll in 2013 when it was a mere 51.80. The highest poling in Mandi has taken place in 2019 when it touched 73.60, giving BJP candidate Ram Swaroop a record win by almost four lakh votes.

The Congress, on the other hand, is confident that it will win Mandi Lok Sabha as well as Fatehpur and Arki seat due to a very strong undercurrent against price rise and unemployment.

In Jubbal-Kotkhai, political analyists feel that it could be a close game between Congress candidate Rohit Thakur and BJP rebel Chetan Bragta, son of former minister Narinder Bragta.

However, BJP leaders on condition of anonymity say they had expected higher polling turnout as such they too are keeping their fingers crossed.

The lowest polling in the 17 Assembly segments under Mandi seat took place in Sarkaghat with a mere 46.72 per cent polling, which could upset the BJP calculations.

Courtesy: Tribune News Service

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