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Intense Battle Between Secular Vikramaditya and Communal Kangana Ranaut
Thursday - May 30, 2024
Intense Battle Between Secular Vikramaditya and Communal Kangana Ranaut
Mandi: The last phase of the Lok Sabha polls on June 1 will witness the intense battle between Bollywood actor Kangana Ranaut and Vikramaditya Singh for the Mandi seat. The high-octane campaign by the candidates set sparks flying with controversies and stinging jibes.
 
Be it Kangana's 'beef eating' past which the actor denied to Vikramaditya being called 'chota pappu', the tone was set for an ugly fight between royalty and stardom. While BJP's pick Kangana Ranaut has for long positioned herself as a crusader for Hindutva, Vikramaditya Singh of the Congress is the son of six-time Himachal chief minister late Virbhadra Singh and sitting MP Pratibha Singh.
 
Singh was born into the royal Rajput family of the princely state of Bushahr and was crowned its titular king after his father's death. While this is the first time Kangana entered the political arena officially, Vikramaditya won the Shimla (rural) seat for the second time in the 2022 state elections and is also a cabinet minister. Mandi, always a Royal supporter Mandi has mostly been dominated by royal families. It elected royals in 13 out of the 19 elections held, including two bypolls.
 
In the 1952 general elections, the country's first health minister, Amrit Kaur, who belonged to the royal family of Patiala, was elected from there. At present, sitting MP Rani Pratibha Singh is the wife of the former King of Rampur-Bushahr, late Virbhadra Singh. Kangana's poll pitch was considered a Congress stronghold till a decade ago, the wind started blowing in favour of the BJP. This is the reason why the party high command handed over the chief minister post to Jairam Thakur after winning the 2017 polls.
 
Even though the saffron party is not in power here, Thakur remains a prominent face and the BJP still has a hold on nine of the 10 assembly seats in the district. Jairam Thakur is also handling Kangana Ranaut's campaign.
 
On May 24, Prime Minister Modi campaigned for Kangana in Mandi. The actor posted pictures from the public address showing the huge turnout. However, Kangana is a natural crowd puler by virtue of being a movie star. Many are turning up just to catch a glimse of her. In recent times, Kangana's polularity has also surged because of her controversial statements and the Himachal campaigning has been no different. It has been learnt a section of people are apparently upset over her debatable comments even as she won hearts in her Mandyali dialect.
 
During the election campaign, Kangana launched a multipronged attack on her opponents and made several controversial statements about rival Vikramaditya Singh -- this also got her in trouble. Kangana's statement calling Vikramaditya Singh 'Chota Pappu' and 'Raja Beta' in Manali made headlines. Kangana has also used words like 'shehzada', 'satta ke bhuke', corrupt, anti-women against him and attracted legal tussles for herself as the Congress took the matter to the election commission.
 
Throughout her campaign, Kangana has pointed out how Vikramaditya called her an 'outsider', that she was not from Mandi but from Mumbai. She also highlighted terms such as 'impure' being used against her by her opposition. When Kangana's name was announced from Mandi, a row was triggered due to the sexist slurs used for her by some members of the Opposition. The opposition has made the biggest attack on Kangana regarding food. The opposition has raised many questions about Kangana's viral posts on social media. Apart from this, politics has also been at its peak regarding the consumption of beef in Devbhoomi.
 
Citing Dev Samaj, Vikramaditya Singh also talked about getting the temples purified after Kangana leaves. While Kangana has been able to get the limelight on her, she is also expecting to benefit from the Brahmin and the Rajput votes in the state. Her film career is also likely to give her an edge. Challenges before Kangana has been given a ticket by the high command and certain leaders in the party are apparently not satisfied with the decision. Leaders who have been in the race for a long time and the workers who have been working for the party for years are also angry. Apart from this, Dinesh Kumar Bhati, an RSS idelogue, has also trained guns on the actress over her food habits.
 
Historically, Mandi has favoured which party? This seat has mostly been dominated by the Congress and has been the karmabhoomi of late Virbhadra Singh, who was elected the Chief Minister of the state six times. Virbhadra Singh has been an MP from Mandi thrice. In the 19 elections held here, Congress party MPs have been elected 13 times. Before the 2021 elections, no Mandi MP had ever been in Opposition before except Pratibha Singh.
 
Mandi comprises 17 assembly constituencies of Mandi, Kullu, Lahaul Spiti, Kinnaur, Shimla and Chamba districts. In these 17 assembly constituencies, 33.6 per cent votes are of Rajputs while 29.85 per cent votes are of Scheduled Castes. Brahmins have the third-largest vote bank with 21.4 percent. This seat has always been occupied by Rajputs and Brahmins. Only once in the first election of the country did a Dalit get a chance to become an MP here.
 
In the 1952 Lok Sabha elections, Congress's Gopi Ram was elected as an MP from here. He was from the Scheduled Caste. Out of the 17 assembly constituencies falling under the Mandi parliamentary constituency, five assembly constituencies - Rampur, Ani, Balh, Nachan and Karsog, are reserved for Scheduled Castes. The history of the parliamentary seat reveals that only two Brahmin leaders, Pandit Sukhram and Ram Swaroop Sharma, have been able to win here.
 
Apart from this, the reins have always been in the hands of Rajputs. Vikramaditya Singh was born into a political family that had its own identity in Himachal politics, and he might reap the benefit of the legacy in the election. He is raising issues of public interest, while Kangana has not been able to openly express her views on public issues. At the same time, Vikramaditya Singh has also told the voters about his priorities for the constituency.
 
From 2019 to 2024, MPs of both parties have got a chance to work for the Mandi seat. After the death of BJP MP Ram Swaroop Sharma in 2021, Pratibha Singh took charge of this area by winning the bypoll. People say that both the MPs failed to bring a big scheme for Mandi during their tenure. Meanwhile, people have expressed mixed feelings for the Centre.
 
While people are happy with the construction of Ram temple, there is disappointment over the Agniveer scheme. Better health facilities in hospitals, getting rid of stray animals, eradicating drug addiction, better education in schools, providing permanent employment for the youth, women safety, are some of the issues in the constituency.
 
Vikramaditya has laid down his mission and priorities to make Mandi an ideal parliamentary constituency. His plans include developing Mandi into a smart city, building Gaushala for helpless animals, opening CSD canteen, closing Agniveer Yojana, providing permanent employment for the youth, bringing back Rs 9,000 crore of NPS employees.
 
Kangana Ranaut, on the other hand, has not been able to speak much on public issues, but she spoke about women empowerment in her rallies. Apart from this, Congress is also trying to cash in on the recent natural disaster that hit the state alleging that the BJP did not make any effort to get help from the Modi government at the Centre. It said the state government helped the people by issuing a special package of Rs 4,500 crores from its own resources.
 
Vikramaditya Singh, as the Public Works Minister, repeats this in his public meetings. The opposition is being cornered on similar issues. Kangana is being targeted by Congress candidate Vikramaditya Singh for not listing her priorities for Mandi. After filing her nomination papers, Kangana also spoke about going with PM Modi's vision and mentioned her plans for tourism and railway expansion.
 
She has also talked about promoting cultural heritage, traditional food and costumes for the local people. While Kanagana is using her film buzz, on the basis of election promises, Vikramaditya Singh seems to be ahead. But the result of the litmus test would only be clear on June 4.

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