Two brothers from the erstwhile Kullu royal family are crossing swords in an electoral battle in the Lok Sabha elections in Himachal Pradesh.
Karan Singh is openly campaigning against his elder brother and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Maheshwar Singh in the Mandi constituency.
Three-time MP Maheshwar Singh's earlier election campaigns were managed by Karan Singh, a former state education minister in the BJP government (1998-2003).
He joined the Congress recently after nearly 27 years in the BJP and is now seeking votes in favour of Congress candidate in Mandi Virbhadra Singh.
Karan Singh said there were no differences between him and his brother but political loyalties had drawn lines between them.
"Now I am a loyal worker of the Congress and campaigning for its candidates. He (Maheshwar Singh) is my elder brother... he has become my adversary the day I pledged my commitments to the Congress. It's political affiliation that will decide who stands with whom and not blood relations," Karan Singh told IANS.
Maheshwar Singh was dismissive. "It hardly makes any difference (that Karan Singh is supporting the Congress)," he said. "It is his political compulsions that he is campaigning for our rivals. The people know who's loyal and sincere.
"In the last state assembly elections (2007), on being denied ticket by the BJP, he (Karan Singh) joined the BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) and this time he has joined the Congress. He is a rolling stone."
Interestingly, Congress nominee Virbhadra Singh, who belongs to the former royal family of Bushehr state, is also distantly related to Maheshwar Singh. Maheshwar Singh's daughter-in-law is from the Bushehr royal family. It's just not the royals who have to choose between blood and the ballot, the commoners also have to make that choice.
Urmil Thakur, a BJP legislator, is campaigning against her husband's younger brother Narender Thakur, Congress candidate from Hamirpur. Narender Thakur, the son of late BJP stalwart Jagdev Chand, joined the Congress recently.
"I am a dedicated BJP worker... he (Narender) has crossed the line (joined the Congress); there is no question of supporting him," Urmil said. She, however, admitted the family was "divided" over the issue.
The hill state goes to the polls May 13.