At a time when the state is getting ready for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, cracks are widening in the Himachal Lokhit Party (HLP), a splinter group of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Change of heart of senior leaders has begun to ring alarm bells within the two-year -old HLP.
Within three days, two former legislators, Dulo Ram and KD Dharmani, have returned back to the BJP, compelling the party leaders to introspect.
While the BJP veteran Shanta Kumar, a party nominee for the Kangra Lok Sabha seat, had encouraged his onetime protégé, former Baijnath legislator Dulo Ram, to rejoin the party, persuasion by former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal was the reason for former Ghumarwein legislator KD Dharmani to go back to the BJP.
HLP, which came into existence just before the state assembly polls in 2009, is now finding difficult to keep its flock together. "Leaders quitting one party and joining another during elections has become the normal trend," said HLP chief Maheshwar Singh.
"It's ironical. Dulo Ram who could not even tolerate a single word of praise for Shanta Kumar has now begun to sing paeans for him," he added.
"Those who wanted to leave the party have done so. If the BJP is under the impression that HLP was disintegrating, let them be happy. Dil bahlaane ko yeh khayal acha hai (It's good thought to keep them happy)," said Maheshwar.
A group of leaders who had challenged the previous Dhumal- led regime on corruption left the BJP and joined the HLP. But ever since Maheshwar Singh was elected to the assembly from Kullu, he had been cozying up with Virbhadra and had toed the Congress party line within and outside the assembly.
Maheshwar's pro-Congress stance had become a cause of concern for a large section of HLP leaders. This is one of the factors led to resentment amongst party leaders, even though Maheshwar disagrees.
"Though I've never been pro-Congress I've always made it a point to give credit to the party for some good work by the state government. At the same time I've criticised the Congress over several issues, particularly inside the Vidhan Sabha," he said.
"I'm not a member of the Congress 'B' team as is being stated by some BJP leaders. It was I who criticised the state government inside the Vidhan Sabha during the budget session while the BJP boycotted the house for reasons best known to them," stated Maheshwar.
"The BJP should explain who as to who were the members of Virbhadra's 'B' team in the 2009 general elections when I contested on the BJP ticket and some party leaders supported him," he added. After Maheshwar declined to a merger of the HLP with the BJP, the former has now decided to support Kejriwal's Admi Party (AAP).