Congress aunt battles Communist nephew

Vidya Stokes

Shimla: Seven-time Congress legislator Vidya Stokes is determined to defeat her Communist nephew Rakesh Singha. They are not the only warring family members in the Himachal Pradesh elections.

Vidya Stokes, 84, has been fielded in the Theog constituency after her Kumarsein seat was scrapped in the delimitation exercise.

Theog’s two other prominent candidates are Rakesh Verma of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Singha from the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).

“It’s party first, then comes the family,” said Stokes emphatically. “He (Singha) is toeing a different ideology and running against me. I have to defeat him.”

Rakesh Singha

Stokes and Singha – who was elected to the state assembly from Shimla in 1993 but was unseated after being convicted in a murder case – are prominent apple growers from upper Shimla.

Besides the aunt-nephew, a father and his son-in-law are crossing swords in Lahaul-Spiti, a seat dominated by tribals.

Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party has put up Gurdas. His son-in-law Shamsher Singh is as an independent candidate there.

“Their dispute has divided the entire family,” said Neena Devi, a Gurdas relative.

The list of candidates in the Himachal assembly elections reveals intra-family disputes elsewhere in the hill state too — of a different kind.

BJP rebel and four-time MP Maheshwar Singh’s earlier election campaigns were managed by his brother Karan Singh, a former state education minister in the BJP government (1998-2003).

Now, they don’t see eye to eye.

Maheshwar Singh has floated the Himachal Lokhit Party (HLP), a new outfit, while his younger brother Karan Singh joined the Congress in 2009.

Maheshwar Singh (HLP) is contesting from Kullu, while Karan Singh is the Congress nominee from Banjar.

“He has become my adversary the day I joined the Congress. He has his own life now,” a bitter Karan Singh said.

Congress nominee Virbhadra Singh, who belongs to the former royal family of Bushehr state, was pitted against Maheshwar Singh in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. The former won.

Both men are related although distantly. Maheshwar Singh’s daughter-in-law is from the Bushehr royal family to which Virbhadra Singh belongs.

This time, Virbhadra Singh, spearheading the Congress campaign, is a contestant for the Shimla (Rural) seat.

Urmil Thakur, an outgoing BJP legislator from Hamirpur, is campaigning against her husband’s younger brother Narender Thakur of the Congress at Hamirpur.

Narender Thakur, son of late BJP stalwart Jagdev Chand, joined the Congress in 2009.

This time Urmil is a BJP candidate from Hamirpur’s neighbouring constituency Sujanpur. She is devoting time in her earlier constituency to keep Narender Thakur at bay.

Virbhadra Singh’s wife Pratibha Singh’s sister-in-law Vijay Jyoi Sen is an independent from Kasumpti against Anirudh Singh of the Congress.

Himachal Pradesh goes to the polls Nov 4.

By Vishal Gulati

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