Shimla: Congress is brewing for battle within as elections for the state party president, slated for later in the month, draws closer and both Vidya Stokes and Virbhadra Singh factions are keen to have their men hold the reins of the party.
Incumbent Kaul Singh Thakur, who has drifted away from Virbhadraâ€™s camp, is being backed by Stokes for another term whereas the former is keen to replace him with somebody else.
Throwing in his hat for seeking another term, Kaul Singh says, â€œthe presidentâ€™s elections would be a free and transparent process and Iâ€™m very much in the fray.â€
In a bid to force a contest, names of Gangu Ram Musafir, Chander Kumar and Harsh Mahajan from the Virbhadra camp have been floated as alternatives.
However, when contacted, Musafir, a former speaker said, â€œit is premature to say anything. So far I have not decided whether to contest or notâ€
Factionalism in the party was apparent when recently, an advertisement with pictures of 18 MLAs conveying greeting on Virbhadra Singh 76 birthday appeared.
Conspicuously those who did not appear in the advertisement besides Stokes, Kaul Singh were Rajesh Dharmani, Anil Sharma and Sukhwinder Sukku, all MLAs who are considered to be close to the Stokes camp.
When one of the MLAs whose picture had appeared in the advertisement was asked about having switched camps, he said, â€œthere was mischief at play in placing such an advertisement because my consent was not obtained to deliver what was evidently a political message.â€
Party spokesman Kuldeep Rathore said that the process to elect the new president had started and only after booth, block and district level delegates were elected, would the presidentsâ€™ election be held on July 24. â€œAny congressman is free to contest for the presidentâ€™s post,â€ he added.
With half of the 5 year term of BJP government led by Prem Kumar Dhumal having got completed in June, opposition congress is looking to prepare the party for the 2013 assembly election.
Union steel minister Virbhadra, by frequently visiting the state, has let his intentions be known of where his heart is and the Stokes camp is determined to retain control of the party in order to groom an alternate leadership.