The time before the elections has always been a season of change of heart and loyalties for many politicians in the state, some of whom are considered to have "aced the game". This year too, many leaders are weighing their options and swaying with the political waves.
In Himachal Pradesh, the Bharatiya Janata Party has emerged as the favourite destination of deserters, with many leaders "unhappy" with their current parties switching their loyalty to the national party ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, in spite of their earlier grievances.
This political activity seems to have hit the Himachal Lokhit Party the worst, with the breakaway faction of the BJP trying to stay afloat as several of its leaders have returned to the parent party.
Before the assembly elections in 2012, former BJP state chief Maheshwar Singh floated the HLP, which was later joined by several dissident BJP leaders, including former ministers and legislators. As per their claim, the HLP created the anti-BJP wave in the state and led the party, which was in power at that time, to defeat.
However, most HLP leaders have returned to the BJP before the Lok Sabha polls this year. Former legislator Naveen Dhiman, Dulo Ram and Karam Dev Dharmani have returned to the BJP, while former BJP MLA Khushi Ram Balnatah is likely to rejoin the state opposition party soon. These leaders had levelled serious allegations against the BJP earlier.
HLP chief Maheshwar Singh told HT, "The election season is like autumn, so if leaders are leaving, it will not harm the party." While he termed it a "tough" time, the party chief added that "there would be a new force of true party workers after it was over".
In Hamirpur, stalwart BJP leader Jagdev Chand Thakur's son Narender Thakur is back in the party fold after a long journey via the Himachal Mitra Mandal and the Congress. He unsuccessfully contested the 2012 assembly elections against former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and the 2009 Lok Sabha elections against Dhumal's son Anurag Thakur.
Cong jolt to BJP
The Congress has succeeded in giving a jolt to the BJP by fielding independent legislator Rajinder Rana, an old protege of Dhumal from the Hamirpur Lok Sabha seat.
HP's third front
While there is a long list of deserters in the state, none of them could make a mark in HP's politics. The only exception was former telecom minister and Congress stalwart Sukhram, who deserted the Congress and formed a third front, the Himachal Vikas Congress, ahead of the assembly elections in 1998. He later merged the HVC with the Congress and some of its leaders joined the BJP.
In the previous assembly elections, Maheshwar tried to become the third force, but managed to win only one seat.