Four days after announcing candidates for the Mandi and Shimla (SC) Lok Sabha seats, late night on Tuesday the Congress announced sitting Congress MLA from Kangra state Assembly seat Pawan Kumar Kajal as its candidate from the Kangra Lok Sabha constituency. However, the party, which remains undecided on the candidate from the Hamirpur seat, has delayed the announcement of a candidate from Hamirpur by a few more days.
The speculation is that three-time BJP MP from Hamirpur, Suresh Chandel, might join the Congress and contest the upcoming polls from the Hamirpur seat for the party. However, many Congress leaders and workers in the state are opposed to the idea of Chandel being the Congress candidate from Hamirpur, resulting in the decision over the Hamirpur Congress candidate being put on hold.
On Wednesday, Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee president Kuldeep Rathore suspended five office-bearers — four from District Congress Committee (DCC) Bilaspur, and one from DCC Una — for opposing the likely inclusion of Chandel in the Congress. Bilaspur and Una fall under the Hamirpur Lok Sabha constituency, and with information on chances of Chandel joining the Congress, the five office-bearers — Tripta Thakur, Naim Mohammad, Shailender Bharol, Madhu Chandel from DCC Bilapur, and Vikas Kashyap from DCC Una — were placed under suspension for organising press conference against Chandel and burning his effigy.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Congress in-charge for Himachal Pradesh Rajani Patil said, “The Hamirpur candidate will be announced atleast four-five days later.”
Patil did not reveal any information on Chandel’s likely induction in the Congress.
Sources in the Congress said that former Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee president Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu who is a sitting Congress MLA from Nadaun seat which falls under Hamirpur Lok Sabha seat is also among the contenders for the Hamirpur seat.
Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, Mukesh Agnihotri, who is an MLA from Haroli which falls under Hamirpur Lok Sabha seat, Congress leader Ram Lal Thakur who is a sitting MLA from Sri Naina Deviji which also falls under Hamirpur Lok Sabha seat, and secretary in Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee Abhishek Rana, are among the Congress leaders being considered by the party as probable candidates for the Hamirpur seat, sources in the Congress said.
On March 23, the BJP had announced all four candidates from the state for the upcoming polls. The party’s election campaign is currently in full swing in all four constituencies — Mandi, Hamirpur, Shimla (SC), and Kangra. However, the delay from the Congress in announcing its candidates, and the indecision over the Hamirpur seat have already put the party on the backfoot.
Congress in-charge Patil said, “The voting in Himachal Pradesh is on May 19, so there’s enough time for Congress candidates to campaign. The delay in announcing names of candidates is because we don’t want to make wrong decisions.”