Celebrity Kangana vs ‘royal’ Vikramaditya on Himachal’s Mandi seat: Clash of richest titans

PTI, May 18, 2024, 10:48 AM IST

Clash of the two richest titans, a celebrity and a ‘royal’, is on the cards in Himachal Pradesh’s Mandi Lok Sabha constituency, known for electing erstwhile ”royals” maximum number of times.

The BJP has for the first time fielded a woman and a Bollywood celebrity in Kangana Ranaut who will take on Vikramaditya Singh, scion of the erstwhile Rampur ”royal family” and son of six-time chief minister Virbhadra Singh.

Both the rivals have launched a high-pitched campaign, even with offensive outbursts.

Vikramaditya fired a salvo at Kangana asking about her vision about the development of the constituency. Taking a dig at his rival, he said she is on a month-long political tourism and would pack up and return to Bollywood after June 4.

Returning the salvo, Kangana dubbed Vikramaditya as ”Chhota Pappu”. It was a mocking reference to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi who is often dubbed as ”Pappu” or a novice by his political opponents. Kangana called Vikramaditya a ”junior Pappu”.

She asked him why he stood mum when Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu took ”anti-Mandi decisions” like stalling the Rs 250-“crore Shiv Dhan project, curtailing the jurisdiction of Mandi University and pushing the Sundernagar airfield project under the carpet.

Kangana’s main agendas include restarting all the stalled projects besides improving connectivity to remote tribal areas, and popularising local cuisines and traditional attires, and promoting women-centric rural tourism in Seraj and Karsog.

”Mandi will be made a smart city,” this is my promise, said Vikramaditya, adding that Jalori Jot tunnel will be constructed on the line of Rohtang tunnel and remote Pangi area of Chamba will be connected with Tissa, besides the construction of Beas river front.

The alleged insulting remarks by Kangana on farmers during the farmer agitation are recoiling and the Samyukt Kisan Manch has rendered their support to Vikramaditya.

On the other hand, Kangana got support from unexpected quarters. The scion of Kullu Maheshwar Singh, who was an aspirant of a BJP ticket from Mandi; former Union minister Sukh Ram’s grandson Ashray Sharma, who was defeated by BJP candidate Ram Swaroop Sharma in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls; and Kargil hero Brig Khushal Singh, who was defeated by Pratibha Singh in the 2021 parliamentary byelection with a narrow margin have extended their support to the Bollywood actor.

Kangana dubbed Vikramaditya also as a ”bigda hua shezada” (spolit prince) and a ‘paltu’ (one who makes U-turns) and said he used to criticise his own government but now is praising it. Singh retaliated by saying she will return ”purified” from the ‘Dev bhoomi’.

Both Bollywood reel ‘Queen’ Kangana and ‘Raja’ Vikramaditya Singh have declared their assets over of Rs 90 crore. Kangana is banking on her celebrity image, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Ram temple factors.

Vikramaditya is hoping to sail through riding on the legacy of his father Virbhadra Singh and state Congress chief Pratibha Singh, the sitting MP from Mandi.

Vikramaditya, who was active during the monsoon disaster in 2023, has been asking where Kangana was when it had hit the state and caused havoc in the Mandi-Kullu region.

The BJP candidate is accused of being unfamiliar with her constituency while the Congress candidate has extensively campaigned for his mother in the last byelections.

Out of 19 parliamentary elections, including two byelections held in Mandi since 1952, the Congress has won 13 times, with both Virbhadra Singh and Pratibha Singh winning thrice. Further, the scions of erstwhile princely states won from Mandi 13 times while the ”non-royals” were elected six times.

Raj Kumai Amrit Kaur of the Kapurthala dynasty and Raja Joginder Sen Bahadur of the princely state of Mandi were elected once, Raja Lalit Sen of Suket represented Mandi twice, Virbhadra Singh and Pratibha Singh three times each and Raja Maheshwar Singh of Kullu won thrice.

Sukh Ram who won from Mandi three times, Ram Swaroop who won two times and Ganga Singh who won once, when he defeated Virbhadra Singh in 1977, were the exceptions who hailed from non-royal families.

The sprawling constituency spreads over six districts and comprises 17 assembly segments.

In the 2022 assembly polls, the BJP had won 12 assembly seats falling under Mandi parliamentary constituency. The seat has become prestigious for former chief minister Jai Ram Thakur, who has to establish that the BJP still holds sway in Mandi.

Vikramaditya Singh has to prove that the impact of the Rampur ‘ruling’ family is deep-rooted in this constituency.

There are 13,77,173 voters in the Mandi Lok Sabha constituency, including 6,98,666 males, 6,78,504 females and three third gender.

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