With less than 20 hours left to the deadline for candidates to withdraw their names from the Himachal Assembly elections,both BJP and Congress are working overtime to convince their rebels to either fall into party line or withdraw from the polls. Many rebels,from both parties,opted for last-minute resignations to get tickets from Himachal Lokhit Party (HLP),NCP,BSP and Trinamool Congress,however,many still remain within party folds.
Top congress leaders including Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit,who headed the partys screening committee for candidates,along with Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma,AICC general secretary Birender Singh,PCC president Virbhadra Singh and former Congress president Kaul Singh Thakur held a closed door meeting to draw-up the partys strategy to persuade the rebels.
The party leadership is here and making efforts to make the rebels withdraw their nominations, Thakur said.
Party insiders claim there are around 18 to 21 constituencies where rebels have filed nominations in defiance of the partys decision. Of these rebels,around a dozen could queer the partys pitch. The biggest rebel challenge comes from Kullu district where if nominations are not withdrawn,the Congress could lose all the constituencies in the district including Manali – where it has fielded a new face Bhuvnesh Gaur,son of former minister Raj Krishan Gaur. Dharamvir Dhami – who joined the Congress at Virbhadra Singhs behest only a few days back – is opposing the official candidate.
Prem Lata Thakur,wife of former Chief Parliamentary Secretary Satya Prakash,has filed her nomination from Kullu constituency as an Independent candidate after the Congress gave the ticket to Sunder Thakur.
Congress decision to field Karan Singh,a former BJP minister and brother of Maheshwar Singh in Kullus Banjar constituency has caused tension as has its decision in Ani (Kullu),Karsog (Mandi),Kasumpti (Shimla) and some constituencies of Una,Chamba,Lahual-Spiti and Solan. Close relatives of Virbhadra Singh are opposing the nomination of Anirudh Singh in Kasumpti where Vijay Joyoti Sen,wife of Pratibha Singhs brother Veer Vikram Sen,has filed nomination as an Independent candidate. BJP too is facing rebel challenge in Kangra,Hamirpur,Mandi,Kinnaur,Shimla and Biksapur districts.
BJP president Nitin Gadkari,on Friday,spoke to former BJP minister and sitting MLA Roop Singh Thakur – who has filed his nomination from Sundernagar after being denied a party ticket.
Thakur refused to budge even as Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal,BJP national general secretary J P Nadda and organising general secretary Ram Lal spent an entire day to get Thakur to withdraw his nomination.
In Dhumals own district of Hamirpur,Rajender Rana – Dhumals former media adviser – is opposing sitting MLA Urmil Singh at Sujanpur. Singh had vacated the Hamirpur seat for Dhumal whose constituency of Bamsan was scrapped. Kamla Patial,a potential rebel,is adamant to stay at Dharamshala and contest against Transport minister Krishan Kapoor while Pawan Kajal,a youth leader,has rebelled in Kangra.
Kushi Ram Balnatah,BJPs Rohru MLA,has quit and joined HLP to contest from Kasumpti while Chet Ram Negi,a former BJP MLA,is also contesting as HLP candidate in Kinnaur after resigning from the BJP.