Congress, BJP send feelers to rebels

Even as it's an agonising wait for the results of the elections, anticipating a close contest, both the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have begun to send feelers to the potential rebels.

Though it's a straight contest between the BJP and the Congress, but former state BJP chief Maheshwar Singh's Himachal Lokhith Party and rebels - both the parties have plenty of them - may prove crucial in some segments.

The top brass leaders in both the rival parties these days are gathering feedback on the voting pattern from the candidates. It was on Monday that the BJP candidates from Sirmaur met chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal to provide him feedback of their respected constituencies. The leaders who called on Dhumal were Baldev Thakur, Hriday Ram, Suresh Kashyap and Sukh Ram Chaudhary.

The BJP leaders discussed in details the possible outcome in Sirmaur district. "Our main aim of coming together was to provide feedback to chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal," said Hriday Ram.

Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee chief Virbhadra Singh who was camping in Delhi for the past few days returned to the state capital. Singh called his supporters to his residence Holy Lodge to seek feedback on possible outcome of the elections, so that the party can plan its next move accordingly.

Congress had many rebels in the poll fray. The party expelled 25 rebel candidates, including an MLA, for six years. Those expelled include Yograj from Dehra, former minister Ishwar Dass (Ani) and former MLAs Kashmir Singh (Ghumarwin) and Mast Ram (Karsog) and 21 others who have contested against party candidates in the state assembly polls. In Nurpur, Rakesh Pathania, an associate member of the BJP, was denied ticket, so he again contested as an independent candidate.

The expelled leaders include Raj Singh Thakur (Chamba), Surender Thakur (Dalhousie), Malender Rajan, (Indora-SC), Pankaj (Fatehpur), Baldev Jolig (Lahaul and Spiti), Dharamvir Dhami (Manali), Premlata (Kullu), Kehar Singh (Anni-SC) and Kapil Dev (Drang ). The rebels despite warnings had refused to step back from contesting. Thakur contested from Sundernagar where the party has fielded a new face, Rakesh Jamwal. A six-time MLA, Thakur had also been the party's disciplinary committee chairman.

Others expelled from the BJP include Kamla Patial, Capt Bhupendra Chauhan, Sudha Sushant, Sanjay Guleria from Jawali, Damodar Chauhan from Nachan, Hira Nand Kashyap from Solan, Mahant Ram Choudhary from Balh, Rajendra Rana from Sujanpur and Shyam Lal Thakur from Mandi.

The BJP anticipated that the anti-Congress sentiments were running high everywhere. In case the results are close, the BJP is not averse to taking support from the rebels.

"Those who have contested elections against the official candidates are also our men. They have remained in the party for long," said state BJP chief Satpal Singh Satti.

"Because they have contested the elections, it does not mean we have closed the doors," he said.

On the other hand, the Himachal Lokhith Party, formed by the breakaway faction of the BJP, is also keeping all its options open. The HLP has formed a third front after joining hands with the left parties.

"We already have had first round of meeting with the left leaders. Whatever decision we take, it will be collective," says HLP chief and former Lok Sabha member Maheshwar Singh.


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