The Congress' central election committee, which met at New Delhi on Saturday, decided nominees for 52 assembly segments of the total 68 seats for the Himachal Vidhan Sabha elections. The party has retained majority of sitting legislators while the fate of those who lost their constituencies due to delimitation will be decided late on Saturday night.
The central election committee meeting was chaired by All India Congress Committee president Sonia Gandhi, while party's national general secretary Rahul Gandhi was also present along with others, including AICC general secretary Birender Singh Chaudhary, state party chief Virbhadra Singh and Congress legislature party leader Vidya Stokes. The central panel deliberated on names forwarded by the state election committee.
Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee president Virbhadra Singh will contest from Shimla Rural, while CLP leader Vidya Stokes is party's nominee from Theog. Former Lok Sabha member Col Dhani Ram Shandil (retd) will contest from Solan. Virbhadra Singh's foe-turned-friend Vijay Singh Mankotia is party's nominee from Shahpur. Former education minister and is AICC secretary Asha Kumari's name has been cleared from Dalhousie. Kaul Singh will be party nominee from Darang, while former forest minister Ram Lal will contest from Naina Devi.
The Congress has pitted Narender Thakur, son of late BJP stalwart Thakur Jagdev Chand, against chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal from Hamirpur.
Sources said there was dispute over names in 16 constituencies, which include Chamba, Nurpur, Jawali, Jawalamukhi, Kangra, Dharmasala, Lahaul and Spiti, Manali, Seraj, Bhoranj, Una, Arki, Nahan, Paonta Sahib, Kasumpti and Shimla.
The party could not arrive on consensus regarding Kasumpti seat from where Virbhadra Singh's wife Pratibha Singh is also seeking ticket. Sources said union minister for trade and commerce Anand Sharma backed his loyalist Kuldeep Rathore from the seat. Singh had vehemently opposed ticket to Rathore. Singh's argument was that his wife Pratibha Singh was a winnable candidate from Kasumpti since her paternal home is in Junga. Pratibha Singh hails from the family of the erstwhile rulers of Keonthal state, which comprises Kasumpti.
There was dispute over names of sitting legislator from Nahan, Kush Parmar who is been pushed to Paonta Sahib by Virbhadra Singh. Singh is batting for his loyalist and former Nahan MLA Ajay Bhadur Singh. Parmar, son of former chief minister Yashwant Singh Parmar, the founder of Himachal, was not keen on shifting to Paonta Sahib since he has contested three elections from Nahan.
The name of Congress' field-marshal the late Sat Mahajan's son Ajay Mahajan had not been cleared. AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi backed the candidature of young Manoj Pathania. The central screening committee panel reportedly refused to allot ticket to Jodhpur MP Chandresh Kumari on the grounds that the party cannot afford another by-election in Rajasthan. Chandresh married to Aditya Katoch, the erstwhile ruler of Kangra, had remained health minister in the Congress government. Sudhir Sharma, MLA from Baijnath, is seeking ticket from Dharamsala.
Core group clears 12 more names, remaining candidates likely to be declared on Monday
The core committee of the Bharatiya Janata Party on Saturday cleared 12 more names of the remaining 23 constituencies for the Himachal assembly polls. Vidhan Sabha speaker Tulsi Ram has been denied ticket while the name of sitting Kinnaur MLA Tejwant Singh Negi has been approved.
The BJP core group met to chalk out plans for the elections, even as party national vice-president Shanta Kumar could not make it to the meeting due to ill-health.
The core panel decided that certain names that are under dispute have been sent to central parliamentary board's approval. The core panel, which comprised central leaders, party national general secretary JP Nadda, party incharge Kalraj Mishra and his deputy Shyam Jajju held a meeting at 'Deep Kamal', party's headquarters.
The panel held consultations with chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, while veteran leader Shanta Kumar and party president Satpal Singh Satti were consulted over phone.
Though the official announcement will be made after the party high command approves the list, sources told Hindustan Times that speaker Tulsi Ram's name has been dropped from the list. The party has preferred its grassroots worker Jiya Lal instead. Ram Singh is party's nominee from Kullu. From Nachan, ticket has been allotted to Vinod Kumar, while Shushil Kalia will be BJP candidate from Gagret.
In spite of stiff opposition from the party, Tejwant Negi, sitting legislator from Kinnaur has been re-nominated. Hira Lal who made it to the assembly as independent has been allotted ticket from Karsog.
Col Inder Singh's name has been cleared from Sarkaghat, while Rajinder Garg is party nominee from Ghumarwin. Balak Ram's ticket has been cleared from Rohru. The names of candidate from Chopal and Shimla Rural have been withheld again.
The core group did not reach a decision on the rest of 11 seats as deadlock over ticket allocation in Kangra district continued. The constituencies where the party is yet to decide candidates include Indora, Fatehpur, Jawali, Dehra, Jawalamukhi, Jaisinghpur, Kangra, Baijnath, Bilaspur, Solan, Chopal and Shimla Rural. Sources said the final decision on 13 constituencies will be taken on Monday.