A sub-divisional magistrate on Tuesday rejected the nomination of Congress veteran Vidya Stokes from Theog constituency for the upcoming November 9 Himachal Pradesh assembly elections. At 90, Stokes would have become the oldest candidate to contest elections in the hill state, but now Deepak Rathore will represent Theog.
Stokes had filed her nomination papers late on Monday, which came under scrutiny because Rathore too had submitted the authority letter of the party and was a claimant to the party symbol.
The Theog sub-divisional magistrate – who is also the returning officer for the constituency – pointed out that Rathore’s name had figured in the Congress’s official list of candidates that was released on October 22, a day before the last date of filing of papers, and rejected the nomination of Stokes.
With only two weeks to go for the elections, the incident has left Congress red-faced. But, the selection of the Congress candidate for Theog constituency, which has been Stokes’ bastion since 1974, has not been without drama.
Initially, Stokes had told Congress President Sonia Gandhi that she would retire from electoral politics and had proposed the name of Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh as the “most suitable candidate” for Theog. However, the CM filed his nomination papers from Arki in Solan district and recommended the name of Rathore, who is a member of Rahul Gandhi’s youth team, for Theog.
However, Stokes wanted Vijaypal Khachi, son of late Congress leader JBL Khachi, to represent Theog if the CM backed out. But, in the Congress Central Election Committee meeting on Sunday, Rahul Gandhi cleared the name of Rathore.
The move irked Stokes, who immediately called up Gandhi and told that she had decided to vacate the Theog seat for Virbhadra Singh voluntarily and if the CM did not contest, she had a right to suggest a candidate of her choice or represent the seat herself. The party leadership decided to fulfil her wish and gave her the nod to contest from Theog, where the BJP has fielded Rakesh Verma, a three-time MLA.
It remains to be seen how the party leadership mollifies Stokes, who has won the past three elections from Theog successively.