In focus | Other States

Arki, the new sanctuary of ‘Raja Sahib’

Arki, a small town 38 km from Shimla, has shot into prominence as Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh is contesting the seat in the Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections on November 9.

Mr. Singh vacated his traditional seat of Shimla (Rural) for his son, and shifted here, taking on Ratna Singh Pal, a first-time Bharatiya Janata Party candidate.

It is a long drive to Arki via the industrial town of Baddi, near Srinagar, as the 87-km route is potholed in many parts — a sign of poor road connectivity in the hill State.

Poor facilities

“We do not get tourists. Our medical facilities are poor. And the access roads, too, leave much to be desired. We need development but that hasn’t been coming,” H.C. Sharma, who lives in the town, says. “People here practise agriculture. The wheat-sowing season is starting now.”

Residents have many complaints about the hospitals here — there is just a doctor or two and patients have to be rushed to Shimla for treatment, they say.

But will the lack of facilities and infrastructure have a bearing on the elections, and will the anti-incumbency factor hit the Congress government?

“The BJP does have an edge in the State as a whole, and Himachal Pradesh has had a record of voting out incumbent governments,” Ramesh Singh Pal, a local resident and trader, says. “But on this seat, the stature of Raja Sahib [Virbhadra Singh] makes the Congress a favourite.”

Mr. Pal was chosen as the BJP candidate after the two-time sitting MLA, Govind Ram, was denied the ticket on grounds of poor health.

“I have spent my whole life in Arki, but I do not know the BJP candidate. He is a Chandigarh-based businessman, though he has his roots in Arki. But he is unknown here,”

“Last time, the BJP won this seat as there was a rebel candidate from the Congress. This time, the Congress is united behind ‘Raja Sahib’ the entire party vote will go to him,” he says.

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Printable version | Apr 20, 2021 10:38:05 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/arki-the-new-sanctuary-of-raja-sahib/article19940415.ece

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