Tug of war in Himachal Congress over ticket

Shimla, March 11: A tug of war is on in the ruling Congress in Himachal Pradesh over the party’s candidate from the Hamirpur seat, the pocket borough of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

While the saffron brigade has retained sitting MP Anurag Thakur, son of two-time chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, from this seat, the Congress faction led by Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh is banking on BJP rebel Rajinder Rana.

Rana is an Independent legislator from Sujanpur and an associate member of the Congress.

State Congress chief Sukhvinder Sukhu has, however, put forward the name of Industries Minister Mukesh Agnihotri from Hamirpur, who is reluctant to contest, a senior party leader told IANS Tuesday.

Of the six Congress legislators in Hamirpur parliamentary constituency, Agnihotri is the only cabinet minister.

Sources said that even in the last rounds of meetings with the top echelons in the party in Delhi, Virbhadra Singh and Sukhu have been adamant on their stand on the Hamirpur ticket.

The chief minister is said to have asserted that Rana was the best choice, as despite his popularity, he knows the Dhumal family inside out, which would help the Congress give a befitting reply to the BJP.

Rana’s name also figured in the Congress corruption “chargesheet” given by the BJP to President Pranab Mukherjee in August 2012.

The Congress has won the Hamirpur Lok Sabha seat only once in the past 25 years.

The Congress is yet to announce any candidate for all the four seats in the state, while the BJP has announced candidates for Shimla (reserved), Kangra and Hamirpur.

The BJP candidates from Shimla and Kangra seats are Virender Kashyap and two-time chief minister Shanta Kumar, respectively.

Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh’s wife Pratibha Singh is almost certain to be the party’s candidate from Mandi, a seat she holds.

From Kangra, a section of state leaders are lobbying for union Culture Minister Chandresh Kumari Katoch.

But the chief minister favours the candidature of former MP Chander Kumar.

From Shimla, Rohru first-time legislator Mohan Lal Bragta is the chief minister’s choice. Vinod Sultanpuri, son of six-time MP K.D. Sultanpuri, is also in the race. He lost the last assembly elections from Kasauli by a thin margin.

Of the four seats, the BJP won Shimla (reserved), Kangra and Hamirpur while the Congress bagged Mandi during the 2009 general elections.

The state will go to polls May 7.

IANS