Rift in Himachal BJP widens, Shanta loyalists do not attend meet

Shimla: Absence of two ministers, four MLAs and senior leader and party vice-president Shanta Kumar from a BJP state executive meet, here Monday, has brought the rift in the ruling party out in the open at a time when it heads into election year.

Hushed voices at Deep Kamal, the party headquarters, about senior ministers Kishan Kapoor and Ramesh Dhawala; MLAs Vipin Pramar, Des Raj, Kushiram Balnahta and Pravin Sharma skipping the meeting held primarily to devise a strategy for facing two by-elections and the general assembly elections, due in October-November, 2012 gave away the tension prevailing in the party.

An embarrassed party worker let go by commenting, “if ministers and MLA’s are not satisfied with their own government, how do you boost the morale of the ordinary worker.”

For the record, state party president Khimmi Ram said, “indiscipline in the party would not be tolerated at any cost.”

When attention was drawn towards members counted as Shanta loyalists absenting themselves, he said that they were preoccupied and had let him know about it.

However, party sources said besides Pravin Sharma, others had ignored to inform the state party about their absence from the meeting.

A senior leader said that the absence of Shanta Kumar was all the more conspicuous because the meeting date had been finalized in consultation with him. “And he has not been attending the state executive meeting for over a year,” he added.

Differences between chief minister PK Dhumal and old guard Shanta camp have been simmering for a while mainly over politics in Kangra, a district that has 15 seats in an assembly house of 68.

While the Shanta camp has been targeting cabinet minister Ravinder Ravi, whose seat stands abolished under delimitation, the Dhumal camp for a long time has been demanding action against party MP from Kangra, Rajan Sushant, for leveling corruption charges against the state government.

Shanta Kumar has also been raising the issue of mounting corruption but the party high command has chosen to turn a blind eye, ignoring the factionalism in the state unit.

Meanwhile, the party discussed out the strategy for the bye-elections to Renuka and Nalagarh seats due soon. The seats have fallen vacant because of the death of elected members.

Presided over by Ram Lal, national general secretary (organization), others who addressed the meeting included Dhumal, party general secretary JP Nadda and state president Khimmi Ram. Ram Lal is said to have stressed upon the need for discipline in the party.

A political resolution blaming the central government for discriminating against opposition ruled state governments was adopted by the party executive.

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