In the run-up to the Assembly polls in Himachal Pradesh, both the BJP and the Congress geared up for a tight wrestle. Helicopters were whizzing past the skies above, and hoardings on every bend invited people to cast their votes — either in favour of the lotus symbol or the hand.In the middle of all of this, an old Maruti 800 fitted with a loudspeaker would do the rounds everyday. It urged voters to cast their ballot in favour of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) instead. On Monday, as the results came out, the party made a comeback of sorts by winning Theog after a gap of 24 years by a margin of nearly 2,000 votes.Theog was held for eight terms by Vidya Stokes, whose application was rejected by the Election Commission after she failed to complete formalities and because the Congress had two candidates. The party fielded Deepak Rahour, known to be close to Rahul Gandhi, instead. The BJP candidate, veteran Rakesh Verma, lost by 1,983 votes.Around the town, in Theog and in nearby Shimla, the CPI (M)’s Rakesh Singha is fondly known as ‘comrade’. As part of the state’s CITU unit, Singha has stood against injustice meted out to the the society’s vulnerable — taxi unions, labour wagers, and also worked for the upliftment of Dalits in a state where untouchability is high.When news of the gruesome gang rape of a minor girl in Kotkhai spred, it was Singha and his supporters who demonstrated for over a week in Theog. Neelam Sarek of the BJP, who was part of the protesters that demanded a CBI probe into the case, said that he stirred the issue to ensure it gained momentum.“He was one of the first to have reached the girl’s house and mobilised the initial support,” says Sarek. Locals in Theog and neighbouring Kotkhai say that this had helped in the victory.After workers at the Wangtoo Karcham hydroelectric project in Kinnaur faced issues with wages, he stood for them and was even attacked for that. Sanjeev Thakur of Mountain Taxi Drivers says that any time the taxi unions needed him, Singha was there. For Singha, electoral issues are based on liberal policy.THE PREDECESSORTheog was held for eight terms by Vidya Stokes, whose application was rejected by the EC after she failed to complete formalities, and because the Congress had two candidates.
Join the discussion<!–end of artlbotbor–>