Congress seems to have adopted a ‘wait-and-watch’ policy as it withheld its list of candidates for the Himachal assembly elections yet again as the parliamentary board of the ruling BJP met in Delhi to discuss nominees for November 12 polls on Monday.
Marred with factionalism, Congress has held back-to-back meetings in New Delhi to shortlist candidates. However, even after repeated surveys and internal assessments, the party has not been able to release the first list of candidates. It seems the top leadership is wary of an open rebellion.
The majority of Congress leaders have spent a considerable time in New Delhi, lobbying for tickets for their respective loyalists. State party chief Pratibha Singh, leader of opposition Mukesh Agnihotri, and head of the campaign panel Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu had been camping in New Delhi since Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra addressed the “Parivartan Pratigya” rally in Solan on October 14.
The party’s interim president Sonia Gandhi had virtually attended the Congress’ central parliamentary board meeting in New Delhi on Sunday. The marathon meeting that lasted for over six hours witnessed heated exchanges between the top leaders of the state as they failed to arrive at a consensus on the allotment of seats among the warring factions led by Pratibha, Agnihotri and Sukhu.
All India Congress Committee secretary and media in-charge for the state Alka Lamba had on Sunday said that a list of 57 candidates will be released soon, but it never happened. Soon after her announcement former Chopal legislator Subash Manglate took to social media to air his grouse against the AICC’s Himachal in-charge Rajeev Shukla who favoured party general secretary Rajnish Kimta’s candidature from Chopal. Once a trusted loyalist of Virbhadra Singh, Manglate turned the heat on Shukla blaming him for wrong selection of candidates. Meanwhile, youth Congress’ state president Nigam Bhandari, working president Yadopati Thakur and general secretary Surjeet Bharmouri, who are vying for tickets from Kinnaur, Sarkhaghat and Bharmaur have threatened to quit.
The party has not been able to draw a consensus on candidates for Manali, Anni in Kullu district, Sarkhaghat and Nathan in Mandi district; Sulah, Dehra, Nurpur, and Kangra in Kangra district, and Nalagarh in Solan district.Former MLA Bhumber Thakur prevailed over others from Bilaspur Sadar despite vehement opposition, riding on Agnihotri’s support. The Congress parliamentary board will meet again on October 19.
Senior Congress leader Asha Kumari, after casting her ballot on Monday, also hit out at her arch-rival former Congress legislator and working president Harsh Mahajan, saying, “His siding with the BJP will have no impact on the party. He has been out from electoral politics for a long time,” she said.
On certain Congress office-bearers and youth leaders raising the banner of revolt after being denied tickets, Sukhu said, “The Youth Congress should practice discipline. If they want to revolt, they can, the Congress is not afraid.”
BJP’s top brass huddle in New Delhi
Chief minister Jai Ram Thakur, BJP state president Suresh Kashyap, national vice- president and election in-charge Saudan Singh, central minister Anurag Thakur, former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, state in-charge Avinash Rai Khanna, co-in-charge Sanjay Tandon, election co-in-charge Devinder Singh Rana, former BJP president Rajeev Bindal, Satpal Satti, general secretaries Trilok Kapoor, Rakesh Jamwal, Trilok Jamwal, state organisational secretary Pavan Rana and mahila morcha president Rashmi Dhar Sood attended a meeting at the BJP headquarters in Delhi.
The tickets will be finalised by the party’s central parliamentary board, which will huddle in New Delhi on Tuesday.