A week after independent legislator from Sujanpur Rajender Rana gave up his Vidhan Sabha membership to challenge former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal’s parliamentarian son Anurag Thakur in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has demanded that simultaneous bypolls be held for Sujanpur.
Putting an end to a long tussle over the ticket between chief minister Virbhadra Singh and state party chief Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, Rana, who emerged as the choice of the party leadership, had resigned from the Vidhan Sabha on March 14. On the same day, he got himself enrolled as a primary member of the Congress.
It was only after the Rana was formally inducted in the Congress that the party leadership cleared his candidature, though he had already begun his electioneering.
The BJP’s request to the Election Commission to hold bypolls for the Sujanpur assembly segment is being seen as a bid by the party to take advantage of the widening rift between Virbhadra and Sukhu, over ticket allotment.
The CM had favoured Rana, while Sukhu had pushed for the candidature of industries minister Mukesh Agnihotri, the blue-eyed boy of the CM.
The BJP is now trying to prevent Rana from contesting the assembly elections, in case he is unsuccessful in the Lok Sabha polls.
According to the rumour mills, if the EC heeds the BJP’s request, the party could field Dhumal’s younger son Arun Thakur from Sujanpur. As many as 14 panchayats of the earlier constituency Bamsan were added to the newly-carved segment Sujanpur at the time of the delimitation exercise. Bamsan was the stronghold of Dhumal for two decades. After delimitation, Dhumal contested from Hamirpur.
Rana, who was once the protégé of Dhumal, rebelled against the BJP when he was denied ticket from Sujanpur during the assembly elections in 2012. He contested as an independent candidate and won with a margin of more than 14,000 votes. After the Congress returned to power, Rana changed his political adherence. Growing close to chief minister Virbhadra Singh, he succeeded in getting sops for his segment.
However, the BJP has citied four reasons for simultaneous bypolls. In a letter to the chief election commissioner (CEC), party spokesman Ganesh Dutt said this move would save time and money of the state.
“If the byelections are held separately within six months, model code of conduct will be enforced again and there will be additional poll expense,” he said.
To save time and money, he said the Election Commission should announce simultaneous byelections for the Sujanpur seat.
Dutt added that the elector list for the Lok Sabha elections was ready and not much effort was needed to hold the bypolls at the same time.
The BJP also cited the monsoon season as a concern if bypolls were conducted separately. “The seat fell vacant in March and if bypolls are held separately, they will be conducted in August or September, during monsoon,” Dutt said.