Lok Sabha polls: Kangana sweats it out against royal scion in Mandi

Both sides have indulged in name-calling, as Kangana labelled Vikramaditya ‘Chhota Pappu’ and a spoilt prince. For his part, Vikramaditya called her a comedian and a political tourist.
Kangana Ranaut (R) and Vikramaditya Singh are in the fight for the Mandi Lok Sabha seat.
Kangana Ranaut (R) and Vikramaditya Singh are in the fight for the Mandi Lok Sabha seat. Express Illustrations | Mandar Pardikar

MANDI: Among the most watched duels this poll season is the one at Himachal Pradesh’s Mandi, where Bollywood ‘Queen’ Kangana Ranaut is cutting her electoral teeth on behalf of the BJP against Vikramaditya Singh of the Congress. It’s like an open-air theatre where an ebullient but inexperienced candidate is sweating it out against a seasoned neta.

Kangana’s glam quotient is high but so is her tendency for loose talk by straying off the script, making headlines for all the wrong reasons. The party is learning to manage the impulsive actor and trying keep her away from harm’s way.

Her opponent is a pedigreed minister in the Sukhvinder Singh ‘Sukhu’ government, as he is a scion of the erstwhile Rampur royal family. The son of late six-time CM Virbhadra Singh, he was the face of intra-party rebellion in the state till Sonia Gandhi personally requested him to enter the fray. That gave him an opportunity to prove his leadership credentials.

Both sides have indulged in name-calling, as Kangana labelled Vikramaditya ‘Chhota Pappu’—a pejorative linked to party leader Rahul Gandhi—and a spoilt prince. For his part, Vikramaditya called her a comedian and a political tourist.

Actor Kangana Ranaut hold's a road shopw as part of her Lok Sabha polls campaign in Himachal Pradesh's Mandi district.
Actor Kangana Ranaut hold's a road shopw as part of her Lok Sabha polls campaign in Himachal Pradesh's Mandi district.Photo | Express

‘Queen’ Kangana cutting her electoral teeth

Kangana is banking on her celebrity image, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pull and the Ram temple issue.

She has support from unexpected quarters—the scion of Kullu Maheshwar Singh, who was a BJP ticket aspirant from Mandi; former Union minister Sukh Ram’s grandson Ashray Sharma, who was defeated by the BJP’s Ram Swaroop Sharma in the last Lok Sabha polls; and Kargil hero Brig Khushal Singh, who lost to Vikramaditiya’s mother Pratibha Singh in the 2021 parliamentary bypolls.

“When Bollywood considered me an outsider, the BJP chose me to serve the people of Mandi,” says Kangana. She tries to connect with the masses by speaking in Mandiyali and sporting the local attire.

As for Vikramaditya, he has support from the Samyukt Kisan Manch, since Kangana criticised farmers during their agitation.

Mandi is the second-largest parliamentary constituency in India after Barmer in Rajasthan.

The Mandi seat covers six districts and 17 assembly segments.

While the upper areas of Lahaul & Sipiti, Manali, Kullu, Rampur, Kunnar and Bharamur are inclined towards Vikramditya, the lower regions like Mandi, Anni, Karsog, Sundernagar and Nachan are tilted towards the BJP.

It shares its border with China and has among the three highest mountain passes in the country, Rohtang, Sach and Kunzum.

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