SHIMLA, Nov 4: Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh is banking on his popularity as he takes on a political greenhorn Rattan Singh Pal of BJP in Arki constituency of Solan district after leaving the Shimla Rural seat for son Vikramaditya Singh.
Arki, capital of the erstwhile princely state of Baghal, saw the BJP deploying its star campaigners like UP Chief Minister Yogi Aditya Nath and state BJP incharge Mangal Pandey to target the six-time Himachal Pradesh chief minister over corruption and other issues.
Apparently confident of victory, the 83-year-old Congress veteran has not visited the constituency after filing his nomination papares and is campaigning in other districts for the November 9 election. Enthused Congress workers claim a win in Arki will also impact the adjoining constituencies of Solan.
The BJP denied ticket to its two-time MLA Govind Ram Sharma which has lead to claims of some discontent among party workers.
Though non-Congress candidates had been elected in the last two assembly elections, Virbhadra Singh had earlier given an indication that he might shift to Arki and took up a large number of developmental works in this constituency.
Opening of three colleges at Jainagar, Diggal and Darlaghat and upgradation of the Civil Hospital at Arki into a 100-bedded facility are some of them.
Funds worth Rs 90 crore were sanctioned for detailed project reports of 22 roads while a key potable water scheme worth Rs 28 crore on Gambher river is in an advanced stage of being commissioned.
However, the BJP has made deep inroads in this constituency over the years. Nagin Chandra Pal won in 1977 as Janta party candidate and was re-elected as BJP candidate in 1982 and 1990. He had won from as Praja Socialist Party (PSP) candidate in 1957.
Hari Das of Congress won in 1962 while Hira Singh Pal won in 1967 as independent and 1972 as Lokraj Party candidate in 1972.
In 1985, Hira Singh Pal of Congress wrested the seat while Dharam Pal Thakur of Congress was elected thrice in 1993, 1998 and 2003.
Govind Ram Sharma of BJP emerged victorious in 2007 and 2012. But the party did not give him ticket this time.
Four candidates are in the fray including an independent.
The total number of voters is 80722 — 41,903 males, 38,284 female and 530 service voters.
Arki is about 40 km from state capital Shimla. (PTI)