After the Congress' shocking defeat in the Lok Sabha elections state in general and in Hamirpur in particular, chief minister Virbhadra Singh has started a policy of appeasement towards the people of Hamirpur in order to contain the BJP dominance in the district by appointing Rajinder Rana as the vice-chairman of Disaster Management Authority and Sunil Sharma (Bittu) as the member of HP Private University Regulatory Commission.
While Rana is the close aide of the chief minister and was given to Lok Sabha ticket from Hamirpur seat, Sunil Sharma is blue-eyed friend of state Congress chief Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu and a strong critic of the chief minister. Sharma, popularly known as Bittu, had made his presence felt in front of the chief minister and other Congress leaders of the state during the tour of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi during the Lok Sabha elections by openly saying the allotment of ticket to Rana was wrong and by doing so, the party high command had committed a wrong thing by ignoring the grass root party workers.
The party had lost badly in all the five assembly segments of the district during the last Lok Sabha elections and even the polling stations of the senior leaders of the party also gave lead to the BJP candidate rather than Congress party from there.
Sources in the Congress told Hindustan Times that despite an ongoing tiff between chief minister and state Congress president, Bittu's name was cleared on the plea that he was clear hearted man and an engineering graduate having knowledge of the working of the educational institutions.
Secondly, Singh never wanted to invite trouble for him or his team in Hamirpur district, which was already in the control of the BJP led by Prem Kumar Dhumal. There are indications that many more second or third rung leaders of the party may be accommodated with various posts in the government so that they are able to have close rapport with the people.
There are reports that chief minister has told Rajinder Rana and Inder Dutt Lakhanpal, the lone party MLA from the district and now a chief parliamentary secretary, to intensify their activities to please the people and ignore all such persons who were harmful for the party despite being own people of the Congress.
The chief minister is also stated to have told both leaders to take complete charge of the district and ensure that the policies and programmes of the state government were delivered to the people at the grassroots level at a time when the BJP government was at the Centre.
Meanwhile, there are reports that a section of party persons have shot letters to All India Congress Committee chief Sonia Gandhi to personally take charge of party affairs and ensure that all such persons who were behaving in a dictatorial manner were not allowed to remain in their positions of power in all the states, including Himachal Pradesh, where the party lost heavily to the BJP.
With situation at the highest level in the Congress already fluid, one thing is clear that the party government and the organisation in the state will have to work collectively failing which it would be difficult for them to restrict the BJP from increasing its hold in all parts of the state, including Hamirpur.