Shimla: Infighting within the ruling BJP in Himachal Pradesh may cost it more than the main opposition Congress in the Nov 4 assembly elections.
Political observers say the rebels are more daring and vocal in the BJP compared to the Congress, though both parties have been gripped with infighting.
The BJP Wednesday cleared its final list of candidates, denying the party ticket to five sitting legislators. Most of them have threatened to contest either as independents or as nominees of the Himachal Lokhit Party (HLP), a new political outfit headed by BJP rebel and four-time former MP Maheshwar Singh.
The prominent saffron faces who were denied ticket this time include assembly Speaker Tulsi Ram and six-time legislator Roop Singh.
The denial of ticket to Tulsi Ram, a two-time legislator who belongs to the tribal area of Bharmour in Chamba district, has led to a revolt in the party.
His supporters have decided to field Tulsi Ram’s wife Leela Sharma as an independent candidate for that seat.
“There are even chances that Leela Sharma can contest as an HLP candidate,” said a Tulsi Ram loyalist.
One of the seniormost leaders of the BJP, Roop Singh, who was the youngest legislator when he was elected for the first time in 1977, is also mulling whether to join the HLP or contest as an independent. He represents Sundernagar in Mandi district in the current assembly.
“The future course of action will be decided after meeting supporters from all panchayats,” Roop Singh said.
The BJP got a shock a few days ago before the clearance of is final list when Khushi Ram Balnatah, the legislator from Rohru, said goodbye to a party he had been associated with for four decades and joined the HLP.
In the last three years, Balnatah had embarassed the BJP by not only levelling serious allegations of corruption against the party but seeking a leadership change as well.
The BJP has even ignored the claim of Rajan Sushant, its firebrand MP from Kangra who has been suspended. He was trying to get the party ticket for his wife Sudha Sushant from Fatehpur in Kangra district.
For quite some time, Sushant has not been openly criticising Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal. He was suspended in March for demanding a narco-analysis test of Dhumal and his cabinet ministers over corruption.
Justifying the changes in ticket allocations, state BJP chief Satpal Satti said: “In a bid to counter the anti-incumbency factor, we have introduced 26 new faces.”
The Congress, too, is not lagging in infighting.
It’s a case of state Congress president Virbhadra Singh’s kin turning foes.
Upset over the denial of a ticket to Veer Vikram Sen, a brother-in-law of Virbhadra Singh, from Kasumpati, office-bearers of the local block Congress have quit and announced they would field Vikram Sen’s wife as an independent.
Even union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma’s confidants like Kuldeep Rathore, former two-time legislator Harbhajan Singh Bhajji and Kailash Prashar failed to get the ticket.
Virbhadra Singh, who has been in the Congress for about five decades, has bargained hard with the party leadership for his candidates to make his presence actively felt on his return to state politics, political observers say. He had resigned as a union minister earlier this year after being named in a corruption case.
The Congress has also axed two legislators – Yog Raj from Pragpur and Sohan Lal from Kasumpati.
Yog Raj has already announced his decision to contest from Dehra as an independent.