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Himachal wait: Fearing dead heat, BJP, Congress try to break ice with rebels

While Himachal Pradesh has never seen a hung Assembly, this election may throw up a surprise, with both the contenders beset by rebellion within their ranks.

BJP supporters attend a public meeting of Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister and BJP leader Jairam Thakur ahead of Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections, in Kullu. (PTI/File)

Amid expectations of a close fight between the incumbent BJP and the challenger Congress in the Himachal Pradesh elections, both parties are keeping a close watch on their rebel candidates.

The outcome of the Himachal polls, held on November 12, will be declared on December 8.

While Himachal Pradesh has never seen a hung Assembly, this election may throw up a surprise, with both the contenders beset by rebellion within their ranks.

More than 20 BJP rebel candidates are contesting as Independents while at least 10 Congress rebels are in the fray.
The BJP national president, JP Nadda, who hails from Himachal, made several visits to the state while Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur had met several rebel leaders to try placate them in the run-up to the elections to the 68-member Assembly.

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Kirpal Singh Parmar, BJP rebel candidate from Fatehpur, claimed he had received a phone call from Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself, asking him to step down, adding, it was “too late”.

The BJP had cancelled the tickets of 11 sitting MLAs and fielded many new faces, ruffling several feathers in its circles.

Sources said both the BJP and the Congress are in touch with a slew of their rebel candidates even though several of them have been suspended for “anti-party activities”.

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In the 2017 Assembly polls, the victory margin in six seats was about 1,000 votes or less.

“If there is a minority government, the role of the Independents will be crucial,” admitted BJP spokesperson Karan Nanda.

The Congress charges that in the event of a close contest, the BJP is likely to indulge in horse trading. “The BJP has a lot of resources. And they will be ready to use it in the event the elections do not go in their favour. There is a sense of apprehension as the BJP has done so in other states. The elections have been fought freely and fairly by the Congress and we hope to form a stable government,” said HPCC vice-president Naresh Chauhan.

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The rebels include a scion of the erstwhile Kullu royal family, Maheshwar Singh, who was given the saffron party’s ticket from Kullu Sadar which was later revoked after he could not convince his son, Hiteshwar Singh, not to fight as an Independent from Banjar.

In Mandi, CM Thakur’s home turf, BJP rebel Praveen Sharma has emerged as a threat to the prospects of BJP candidate Anil Sharma, in his fifth election.

The Congress has fielded former Himachal president and minister Kaul Singh as well as his daughter Champa Thakur from two seats in Mandi despite its policy of “one family one ticket”.

For the Congress, Shimla’s Theog seat has two rebels — Indu Verma and Vijay Pal Khachi — against its official nominee.

First published on: 02-12-2022 at 09:30 IST
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