BJP faces siege from within in its Kangra citadel | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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BJP faces siege from within in its Kangra citadel

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is facing a siege within in Kangra district, the nerve centre of Himachal Pradesh's politics, following a rebellion over ticket allotment for the November 4 assembly elections.

chandigarh Updated: Oct 25, 2012 23:05 IST
Pawan Sharma

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is facing a siege within in Kangra district, the nerve centre of Himachal Pradesh's politics, following a rebellion over ticket allotment for the November 4 assembly elections.

The gravity of BJP's woes can be gauged from the political drama unfolding in Fatehpur seat where Kangra MP Rajan Sushant - suspended from the BJP after unfurling a banner of revolt against chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal - has fielded his wife Sudha Sushant to contest as party rebel.

Perceived to be the stronghold of the saffron party, the voters - total 10.61 lakh, including 5,38,916 male and 5,22,320 female - of this biggest district are known for their high level of political awareness and shaping the contours of Himachal's politics in every election.

In fact, Kangra with the maximum 15 assembly segments dominates Himachal's political scene so much that the party which wins the maximum seats in the district always forms the government.

In the December 2007 assembly elections, the saffron party in its citadel had won nine seats, while the Congress bagged five seats. One independent (BJP rebel) and one candidate of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) had also won. In 2007, there were 16 segments in this district.

Now, the BJP's ambition of creating history by retaining power seems to be facing a major hurdle at least in Kangra from the rebels, who are set to queer the pitch in at least nine segments, including two candidates of Himachal Lokhit Party (HLP).

Though the BJP leadership is concerned about this rebellion, its state leaders are giving a new spin to this issue.
"There was a time when we used to bank a lot on Kangra and Hamirpur to form government. Now we are focusing equally on all four Lok Sabha seats," Praveen Sharma, who heads the BJP election management committee, said.

It is in this backdrop that to break this dominance of Kangra, the BJP often floated the idea of carving out new districts out of Kangra on the ground that it would ensure better administration. In its election manifesto, the BJP has said that "as per the needs, new districts will be carved out", while the Congress manifesto, on the identical issue, states, "An administrative commission will also be set up for proper re-organisation of boundaries of all tehsils, sub-tehsils, sub-divisions and districts for ensuring better governance."

But a veteran Kangra watcher and a retired bureaucrat says, "The rebels will dent the prospects of the BJP candidates."
The rebels who are causing anxiety in the BJP camp are Sanjay Guleria (Jawali); Kamla Patial (Dharamsala); Manohar Dhiman (Indora); Ravi Dhiman (Jaisinghpur); Pawan Kajal (Kangra); while in Nurpur, the sitting independent MLA, Rakesh Pathania, is again in the fray after the BJP denied him ticket allegedly due to the opposition of former chief minister Shanta Kumar.

Similarly, two former BJP MLAs, Dullo Ram, a gaddi community leader from Palampur, and Naveen Dhiman who represented Pragpur (reserved) now called Jaswan-Pragpur are in the fray as HLP nominees.

Political analysts agree that all these rebels have potential to eat into the BJP vote bank, making the contest tough. "There is a complete confusion in Kangra due to rebels and large number of candidates," says a BJP leader.

Behind this confusion is the fact that there are 120 candidates in the fray for15 seats with 16 alone from Dehra, which is a new for Kangra. Another factor having potential to spoil the prospects of the official BJP nominees is the Gaddi and OBC factor. For an example, in Dharamsala seat, both the BJP nominee and the party rebel are from the Gaddi community.

This community factor dominates Kangra politics to the hilt.