The widening rift within the two-year-old Himachal Lokhit Party has apparently benefited the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is poaching leaders from its breakaway faction. After Arun Mehra, who contested from Nagrota Balwan as an independent candidate, joined the BJP on Tuesday, political circles are abuzz that more HLP leaders could return to the main party.
The political novice had given the Congress’ high-profile transport minister GS Bali a run for every vote, and had bagged more than 23,000 votes, while the BJP’s Mangal Chaudhary finished third.
The BJP is of the opinion that Mehra’s entry could further consolidate the party’s vote bank in Nagrota Bagwan, which has been held by Bali for the last four terms.
Besides, Ravi Dhiman, who contested as an independent candidate from the Jaisinghpur assembly segment in Kangra district, also joined the party on Tuesday.
Speculations are rife that Khushi Ram Balnatah, who was recently divested of all party responsibilities by HLP chief Maheshwar Singh, would return to the BJP fold, along with many other leaders. The former Rohru legislator had quit the BJP to contest elections on the HLP ticket from the Kasumpati assembly segment. Balnatah was the vice-president of the HLP, and a member of the party’s core group. “Many more leaders are likely to return to the party fold,” state BJP chief Satpal Singh Satti told HT.
Keen to improve its prospects in the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP is eyeing the return of former Kinnaur legislator Chet Rama Negi, who had left the party ahead of the assembly elections. Chet Ram contested the polls on HLP ticket, but was defeated.
However, he had made things difficult for the BJP candidate Tajwant Negi, who lost to Congress’ Jagat Singh Negi.
Former Pragpur legislator Naveen Dhiman and former Rampur legislator Ninju Ram are also set to return to the BJP. Both had contested elections on HLP tickets. Naveen had polled more than 7,000 votes, while Ram secured nearly 3,000 votes.
Former legislators Dulo Rama and KD Dharmani have already joined the BJP. They had left the party before the previous assembly elections.
The party leadership has already given its nod to the state unit to re-induct leaders, including those from the party’s splinter group HLP.