WITH JUST hours left for the deadline for withdrawal of nominations — Thursday — the Congress as well as the BJP have stepped up efforts to persuade and even compel potential rebels to pull out of the contest. In the Congress, there are nearly half a dozen potential rebels whom the party has offered to ‘pacify’ so that they offer support in the polls favouring the party’s official candidates. Former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda reached Shimla Wednesday and spent time with Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh to draw up a strategy to urge rebels to withdraw their nominations by Thursday.
Hooda told The Indian Express that he had reached out to some of the rebels and they had been urged to take a decision by October 26 before closing day. Insiders say efforts were under way to woo Harish Janartha, vice chairman, HPTDC ,who had contested the 2012 polls but lost to Suresh Bhardwaj of BJP by less than 1,000 votes. Janartha is a loyalist of Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh. This time, he was a strong contender for the ticket but the party decided in favour of Harbhajjan Singh Bhajji, PCC general secretary and former MLA. Hardeep Singh Baba, another potential rebel, is in Nalagarh. He is also a loyalist of the CM. The party has given ticket to Lakhwinder Rana, who had lost to K L Thakur of the BJP by over 9,000 votes. Baba was contender for the ticket in 2012 poll also. Again, he was denied ticket and thus he decided to contest the polls against the official candidate.
Former minister Major (Rtd) Vijai Singh Mankotia, who was removed from the post of vice chairman, tourism development board headed by the CM, is also contesting from Shahpur in Kangra. Although the Congress had tried to rope in Mankotia earlier, he refused to budge . The Congress has also deputed former Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat to get in touch with potentail rebels. “ There are chances of success in persuading some of the rebels. However, we are not keen on everyone but a few of those who can cut into Congress votes,” said Rawat.
The BJP, too, is making similar efforts. One prominent rebel happens to be Praveen Sharma, a former Palampur MLA fighting against Indu Goswami, a new face of the party and mahila morcha president. Sharma, being a loyalist of Shanta Kumar has already refused to listen to his mentor, who, he says, failed to a ensure ticket for him. But the BJP has also managed to do some damage control. Former Speaker and five-time MLA Rikhi Ram Koundal, who was denied ticket in Janduta (Bilaspur) in the district of union health minister J P Nadda ,has got himself admitted to PGI. He wanted to file nomination but Helath Minister J P Nadda approached him and got him shifted outside the state. The party has given ticket to retired IAS officer J R Katwal.