The Himachal Congress Saturday forwarded the names of Pratibha Singh and Rakesh Dharwal to the party chairperson Sonia Gandhi to take the final call on the candidate for the Mandi Lok Sabha byelection scheduled for June 23. While Pratibha is Chief Minister Virbhadra Singhs wife and a former MP from Mandi,Dharwal is a Congress leader hailing from Mandi district.
Two applications were received by the party - one each from Pratibha Singh and Rakesh Dharwal. It was unanimously decided to forward both the names to the high command and leave it to AICC chief Sonia Gandhi to take the final call, PCC chief Sukhwinder Sukhu said after a partys election committee meeting in Shimla.
Top leaders including Virbhadra Singh,cabinet ministers Vidya Stokes,Kaul Singh Thakur,GS Bali and former MP Chander Kumar (ex-MP) attended the meeting.
Sources in the Himachal Congress said that forwarding of the names is a mere formality as party high command is sure to approve Pratibhas name. Reliable sources said that partys district committees of Kullu and Mandi have been told to adopt resolutions in favour of Pratibha to strengthen her claim for the ticket.
Pratibha was elected to the Lok Sabha in 2004 defeating BJPs Maheshwar Singh. This election was held few months after the Congresss return to power in 2003 with a strong majority. However,earlier in 1998 she had lost to Maheshwar,who again defeated Congresss Kaul Singh Thakur in the 1999 polls.
In an equally significant development,BJP announced to field former minister and sitting MLA Jairam Thakur. BJP President Rajnath Singh approved the recommendations of partys HP election committee regarding the bye-election by clearing the name of Thakur.
However,contacted,Thakur said that he had not expressed willingness to contest the Lok Sabha elections. To be honest,I was not keen to contest and had also conveyed my reservations to the party. But,now that the BJP leadership has collectively decided on me,I will take a decisive plunge, Thakur said.
Thakur,who was the partys state president when BJP returned to power in 2007,is four-time MLA from Mandi district and enjoys a clean image and wide acceptability in the party. He was cabinet minister in Prem Kumar
Dhumal-led BJP ministry in Himachal Pradesh and held the rural development and panchayati raj portfolio.
The Mandi Parliamentary constituency having 11.43 lakh voters is spread over six districts of Mandi,Kullu,Kinnaur,Shimla,Chamba and Lahual-Spiti.