Keen poll contest likely in Himachal Pradesh

March 3rd, 2009 - 9:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyShimla, March 3 (IANS) With the announcement of general elections, the political scene has hotted up in Himachal Pradesh with the two arch rivals Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) set to be locked in a keen contest.
The Congress, believe political pundits, is likely to face a tough challenge from the BJP in retaining the three seats it had won in the 2004 elections in view of the latter’s landslide victory in the state assembly elections December 2007.

The Congress had won the Shimla (Scheduled Caste), Kangra and Mandi parliamentary seats, whereas the BJP got the Hamirpur seat.

BJP’s lone parliamentarian Suresh Chandel was suspended from the party after the cash-for-question scam in Parliament. But his parliamentary seat was later won by Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and subsequently by Dhumal’s son Anurag Thakur.

“We (the BJP) are fully prepared to win all the four parliamentary seats this time. Our victory (2007 state assembly elections) has given us a clear mandate for our policies,” Dhumal told IANS.

The BJP has already taken a lead in announcing the party candidates for all the four seats, while the Congress is still mulling over its probable nominees.

Insiders in the Congress said, except the Mandi seat, the party would retain its candidates in Shimla (Scheduled Caste) and Kangra seats.

“A clear picture regarding the finalisation of the candidates (for the Lok Sabha) would emerge only after the (Wednesday) meeting of the party’s central election committee in Delhi,” state Congress chief Kaul Singh Thakur said.

He is in Delhi for the past two days in this regard along with Congress Legislative Party leader Vidya Stokes.

When asked about Congress veteran and five-time chief minister Virbhadra Singh’s campaigning in Mandi though his name was not announced, Kaul Singh said: “Singh has probably got the clearance from the party high command regarding his candidature.”

In Mandi, Singh’s wife Pratibha Singh, who is a sitting parliamentarian, has already decided not to contest the elections this time. Singh had represented this seat till his return to state politics in 1984 to become the chief minister.

Former BJP parliamentarian Maheshwar Singh is the party’s candidate from the Mandi seat.

Dhumal’s son Anurag Thakur, who is contesting on the BJP ticket from the Hamirpur seat, launched his election campaign two months ago.

A section of Congress leaders, including Kaul Singh and Stokes, are in favour of allotting the party ticket to Narinder Thakur, son of late BJP stalwart Jagdev Chand, who has recently joined the Congress.

Two other sitting Congress parliamentarians Dhani Ram Shandil (Shimla) and Chander Kumar (Kangra) have also started campaigning in their constituencies where the BJP has finalised the names of Virender Kashyap and Rajan Sushant, a sitting legislator from Kangra, respectively.

Surprisingly, veteran BJP leader and former union minister Shanta Kumar has decided to opt out of the elections this time. In the 2004, general elections he was defeated by Chander Kumar.

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