Sukhu, His Wife And A By-poll: Whose Fortunes Shine At Dehra?

Fielding Kamlesh Thakur was Sukhu’s trump card against the BJP to make the party’s going tough for the two-time former MLA Hoshiar Singh under whose term the constituency did not witness much development

CM Such with wife Kamlesh Thakur Photo: Facebook

With his wife Kamlesh Thakur in the driving seat in the electoral battle at Dehra that is slated to witness a by-poll on July 10, it’s up to Chief Minister Sukhwinder Sukhu to see how best he can navigate her maiden ride to politics with finesse.

That is how the poll scenes look like in one of the three assembly constituencies in Himachal, promising change in the political fortunes of Dehra—which has never been such a highly contested turf for the ruling Congress or BJP, which have alternated power in the state every five years.

This is the first time that a sitting Chief Minister in Himachal Pradesh got his wife—a homemaker, to take the electoral plunge to solidify his dynasty after facing his party's MLAs' revolt and a bid by BJP to topple his 15-month-old government early this year.

The choice to field Kamlesh Thakur

By fielding his wife against two-time independent MLA Hoshiar Singh, now a BJP candidate, Sukhu wants to hit two wickets with one ball.

Firstly, Dehra being a constituency falling in Kangra, the state’s biggest district, Sukhu aimed to gain a foothold here and eventually move to Dehra in the next 2027 assembly polls, making a possible exit from Nadaun which falls in Hamirpur—a comparatively smaller district.

“Only one of us, either Kamlesh (Thakur) or I will be contesting the next election,” he says to counter BJP’s criticism of dynasty politics.

Kangra has 15 assembly seats of which 10 were with the Congress till Sudhir Sharma got elected from Dharamshala on the BJP ticket in the recent bypoll, reducing the Congress numbers to nine. Sudhir Sharma, a former Congress minister and Dharamshala MLA, is one of the six Congress rebels. 

He was not made cabinet minister by Sukhu. This became a major reason for his revolt and cross-voting in the Rajya Sabha poll with five other disgruntled Congress MLAs. 

If Kamlesh gets elected in the July 10 by-poll, Congress will strengthen its position in Kangra politics since being accused of ignoring the district.

Secondly, Sukhu wants to prove to his party detractors and also the BJP that he happens to be firmly in the saddle like his Congress predecessor Virbhadra Singh, who could quell the dissent and run the government for five years without letting the rivals overpower him. 

“Himachal Pradesh is the only state, after Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra where the operation lotus was foiled. Now that the Congress strength in the 68-member House has already risen to 38, after we won four out of six by-polls in the June 1 election, our numbers will grow to over 40 after three forthcoming by-polls. The government will last its full term. I advise Jairam Thakur to give up his dreams to topple the government and become Chief Minister," Sukhu told Outlook after the campaign ended on Monday.

In February 2024, six Congress MLAs revolted against Sukhu and cross-voted for the BJP candidate Harsh Mahajan in the Rajya Sabha. Congress candidate Abhishek Manu Singhvi lost the seat despite the party's majority in the House. The MLAs were slapped with disqualification by Speaker Kuldeep Singh Pathania for defying the party whip in the House during the passing of the Budget for 2024-25. They later joined the BJP and contested the by-poll. Only two returned to the House causing the rest four to face defeat.

Sukhu says they were part of the BJP conspiracy to topple the government. “They got sold out to the BJP, which paid and sent them suitcases stashed with cash. These MLAs also betrayed the people who refused to vote them back,” he says.

As a result, the Congress tally in the House had dropped to 34 –one short of a majority in the House. The numbers rose to 38 eventually in the by-poll, giving stability to the Sukhu government. The party had 40 MLAs when it formed the government in 2022.

Ironically, three independents Hoshiar Singh (Dehra) K L Thakur (Nalagarh), and Ashish Sharma (Hamirpur) also resigned from the House at the behest of the BJP and went on protests demanding that their resignations be accepted.

Before the Speaker could accept resignations, they joined the BJP and are now contesting the by-poll on the saffron party tickets. Will they meet a similar fate as the four Congress rebels or help the BJP to vindicate its position?

Fielding Kamlesh Thakur was Sukhu’s trump card against the BJP to make the party’s going tough for the two-time former MLA Hoshiar Singh under whose term the constituency did not witness much development successively in the BJP regime and also 15 months of that of the Congress. The issue of the Pong Dam oustees and the central university campus continues to haunt Dehra for years now.

But now, the Chief Minister is promising to make Dehra a model of development, give lands to landless dam oustees, and open new administrative offices, including the Superintendent of Police.

The electoral battle in Dehra

The mood in the constituency is also upbeat. People praise Hoshiar Singh for being a highly accessible person, who has a close connection with the people but they draw a comparison to what an opposition MLA can bring to the table in the constituency as compared to the CM’s wife.

“Congress will be in power for another half and half year. Kamlesh can certainly make a difference to an unattended constituency because of being Chief Minister’s wife,” said Kartar Dhiman, a shopkeeper at Dehra. Slogans like “Kamlesh ko Jeetao, MLA ke sath Mukhya Mantri free pao” (Elect Kamlesh, get Chief Minister free with MLA ) also reverberate in the area.


Why independent MLAs resigned their seats and imposed an election unnecessarily is also a question posed by Congress to the BJP candidates like Hoshiar Singh and others.

During the BJP regime, Dehra faced neglect as being part of the Hamirpur Parliamentary constituency represented by Anurag Thakur. Chief Minister Jairam Thakur did not give much of a push to development here.

Kamlesh, on the other hand, says there will be a Chief minister’s office at Dehra once she wins the election. During the campaign, she hard-sold her connection with the constituency as being a daughter and sister. Her childhood was spent in Dehra and now the people will not send their daughter to the assembly empty-handed.


Dehra earlier was part of the Jaswan-Pragpur constituency from 1967. However, in 2012, it was made a separate Assembly constituency.

The BJP, on the other hand, has mobilised its organisational machinery to ensure that it was not on a losing wicket by inducting the independent MLAs, who earlier had been supporting the Congress.  

Two of three constituencies including Dehra, going to the by-poll on July 10, also fall in Hamirpur Parliamentary constituency where the former union minister has won the Lok Sabha poll for the fifth time. The party's prestige, more than that of Anurag Thakur, is also at stake. 

But the party's decision to prefer turncoats over grassroot party leaders in giving tickets to contest the by-poll, has made the BJP's going difficult despite the party having swept all four Lok Sabha seats in the June 1, 2024, general elections.


The BJP has alleged that Congress used money power and misused the government machinery in the poll. "There is an atmosphere of fear, terror, and extortions in the poll. But, people will not fall into the Congress trap," says former Chief Minister Jairam Thakur, who predicts the poll outcome to have implications on the fate of the Sukhu government and the state's politics.