Undeterred by its little representation in Himachal Pradesh politics, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) will field candidates on 30 out of the 68 assembly seats where elections will be held next month, a party leader has said. The Left party is also tying up with different organisations to form an “anti-BJP and anti-Congress joint front” in the hill state, senior CPI (M) leader Rakesh Singha told PTI.
The Election Commission (EC) on October 12 announced elections in Himachal Pradesh. The voting will take place on November 9 and the results will be declared on December 18. The term of the current assembly ends on January 7, 2018.
While the main contest is considered between the incumbent Congress and the Opposition BJP, the CPI(M), which has so far had a minuscule representation in the legislative assembly, is keen on putting up a fight.
The state unit of the CPI(M) had on October 9 released a list of 14 candidates for the elections. The list included names of the former mayor of Shimla Municipal Corporation Sanjay Chauhan and Singha, a former MLA.
The party has also fielded Kuldeep Singh Tanwar from Kusumti Assembly seat, Vivek Kashyap from Rampur, Lokendra Kumar from Ani, Vishwanath Sharma from Nahan, Munish Sharma from Sarkaghat, Bhupinder Singh from Dharampur, Kunal Bharadwaj from Jogindernagar and Ajay Bhatti from Solan.
Other candidates chosen by the CPI(M) included Anil Mankotia from Hamirpur Assembly seat, Joginder Kumar from Sujanpur, Sudarshan from Lahaul and Spiti and Bittoo Verma from Palampur.
The Left party, which has a considerable hold in the Himachal Pradesh University and in Shimla, has had very little presence in the state legislative assembly since the birth of the present Himachal Pradesh after inclusion of hilly areas of Punjab in it in 1966.
The election of two CPI MLAs — Paras Ram from Jaswan (Kangra) and Bansi Ram from Baijnath (Kangra) — in 1967 was the highest presence of the Left in the state assembly. Later, K K Koushal from Kotkehloor in 1990 and Singha got an entry into the assembly from Shimla in 1993. But since then no Left leader got elected to the Assembly.
The rough patch continued till the Shimla Municipal Corporation elections in 2012, when the Left marked its presence with the election of Sanjay Chouhan as the mayor and Tike der Kanwar as the deputy mayor.
But the CPI(M)’s success was short-lived. In the civic body polls this June, first-time councillor Kusum Sadret, backed by the BJP, was elected as the new mayor of Shimla, while Rakesh Kumar, who won as an Independent candidate and later joined the saffron party, was elected the deputy mayor.
Talking to PTI over the phone, an upbeat Singha said he has launched his campaign from Theog assembly seat, which is currently represented by Congress leader and state Irrigation and Public Health Minister Vidya Stokes.
Citing media reports which suggested that Virbhadra Singh may fight from Theog seat if Stokes (89) hangs up her politician’s boots, Singha said he was keen on contesting against the chief minister.
Earlier this year, Virbhadra Singh, who has been active in electoral politics since 1962 and has been elected to Lok Sabha five times and state assembly eight times, sprang a surprise by offering his Assembly seat –- Shimla (Rural) — to his son Vikramaditya.
The six-time chief minister had said he would himself like to contest from a seat which the Congress has never won.