Former Union minister Sukh Ram’s grandson Aashray Sharma was among the two Congress candidates who were finalised by the party for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. Aashray will contest from the Mandi Lok Sabha seat and MLA Dhani Ram Shandil has been fielded from Shimla.
There are four Lok Sabha seats across Himachal Pradesh, out of which the Congress finalised candidates for two seats on Friday.
Sukh Ram and Aashray had recently returned to the Congress fold after the BJP denied them a ticket. Sukh Ram, along with Aashray, and son Anil Sharma who is currently the Multi-Purpose Projects and Power Minister in the Jai Ram Thakur’s government, had defected to the BJP ahead of the 2017 Himachal Pradesh Assembly polls. The BJP has fielded sitting MP Ramswaroop Sharma from the seat.
Ashray, who is contesting the election for the first time is likely to benefit from the immense clout that Sukh Ram, who was Minister of State for Communication in the P V Narasimha Rao government, wields in the Mandi constituency. Shandil had won the 1999 Lok Sabha polls from the Shimla seat from the Himachal Vikas Congress (HVC), which was a regional party formed by Sukh Ram. The party was later dissolved. Shandil won the 2004 Lok Sabha polls from the Shimla seat as a Congress candidate. Between 2012-2017, he was the Social Justice and Empowerment Minister in the previous Congress government in the state.
In the upcoming polls, Shandil will be contesting against Suresh Kashyap, who had won the 2017 state Assembly polls from the Pachhad (SC) seat, which falls under Shimla (SC) Lok Sabha seat. The party, however, is yet to decide its candidates for the remaining two Lok Sabha seats in the state.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Congress in-charge for Himachal Pradesh Rajani Patil said, “The candidates for the Kangra and Hamirpur seats will be declared next week.” It is being speculated that three-time BJP MP from Hamirpur, Suresh Chandel, might join the Congress and contest the upcoming polls from the Hamirpur seat for the Congress. However, MLA Sukhvinder Singh is also among the contenders for the Hamirpur seat.
Congress leaders in the fray for candidature from the Kangra seat for the upcoming polls are sitting Congress MLA from Kangra state Assembly seat Pawan Kumar Kajal, senior Congress leader G S Bali who was the Transport Minister in the previous Congress government in the state, and Congress leader Sudhir Sharma, who was the Minister for Urban Development in the previous Congress government in the state.