Turmoil in BJP, Congress over ticket allocation

Shimla: There is turmoil in the ruling BJP and the Congress party – Himachal Pradesh’s two main parties — over the allocation of party ticket for the coming assembly elections.

Political observers believe the Bharatiya Janata Party has done some serious exercises on who to field in the hill state but the Congress is far behind in the exercise.

In contrast, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), which scripted history by winning the top posts of the Shimla Municipal Corporation in May, has cleared names of 17 candidates.

The state will elect a 68-member assembly, most probably in November.

BJP leaders said despite marathon meetings, the party has failed to reach a consensus on ticket allotment on most seats.

Differences between Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and national vice president Shanta Kumar have again surfaced over the constituencies where Irrigation and Public Health Minister Ravinder Ravi and former health minister Rajeev Bindal will contest.

Both Ravi and Bindal are Dhumal’s confidants.

Ravi’s constituency Thural in Kangra district has been scrapped in delimitation while Bindal’s constituency has been reserved for Scheduled Caste.

Party insiders said Shanta Kumar has been opposing Ravi’s plan to contest from Jwalamukhi, the pocket borough of Food and Civil Supplies Minister Ramesh Dhawala, a close aide of the former chief minister.

Dhawala himself has refused to contest from adjoining Dehra seat to accommodate Ravi.

“Ravi has been given other options apart from Jwalamukhi but he is adamant,” said a BJP leader who did not want to be named.

Bindal is eyeing to contest from Nahan in Sirmaur district. But Shanta Kumar is against him as he faces corruption charges.

“Shanta Kumar is opposing Bindal’s candidature as he was dropped from the cabinet because of corruption charges. Letting him contest will send a wrong message to the public,” a party leader said.

Even Dhumal is wondering where to contest.

His home constituency Bamson in Hamirpur district has been scrapped in delimitation. He could opt for Hamirpur or Sujanpur.

The Congress, which held a gruelling meeting in Delhi about a week ago, will again meet Sep 29 to shortlist names of candidates and then recommend to the state election screening committee headed by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. The names will then be sent to the Congress leadership for approval.

A senior party functionary said five-time chief minister Virbhadra Singh, fighting a battle of survival, wants more say in ticket allocation.

“Virbhadra Singh wants to marginalise the loyalists of Kaul Singh, a former state unit chief,” a Congress leader said.

Besides the BJP and Congress, other mainstream parties like the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Trinamool Congress are queuing up to test the political waters in the state for the first time.

The CPI-M has been making forays into Himachal.

The CPI-M’s Students Federation of India has a lot of influence in the main university in Shimla as well as prominent colleges in Hamirpur and Una.

IANS

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