Himachal bypoll: BJP pits Brigadier Khushal against Pratibha Singh in Mandi
Kargil war hero Brigadier Khushal Thakur (retd) will be the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate from Mandi parliamentary constituency where byelections will be held on October 30 along with three assembly segments. Brigadier Thakur, who belongs to Mandi’s Nagwain village, will take on former Congress MP Pratibha Singh, who is late chief minister Virbhadra Singh’s wife, in a keenly fought contest. Announcing the candidatures, state party chief Suresh Kashyap said Neelam Saraik is the BJP candidate from Jubbal-Kotkhai, Baldev Thakur from Fatehpur and Ratan Pal Singh will fight from Arki.
Brig Thakur’s Mandi connect
Born in 1954, Thakur graduated from the Himachal Pradesh University and holds a PG diploma in computers and human rights. Before joining the Indian Army in 1975, he worked as a patwari (village revenue officer) for three years. During his 34-year military career, he participated in the Indian peacekeeping mission in Sri Lanka against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). While on a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Sierra Leone, he successfully led Operation Khukhri and liberated 234 soldiers, including 225 Indians, who were being held hostage by rebels.
As commanding officer of the 18 Grenadiers, which captured Tiger Hill and Tololing, which are of strategic importance to India from Pakistani infiltrators, he shot to fame during the Kargil war. He was awarded the Yudh Seva Medal and his unit received a record 52 gallantry awards. Post-retirement, he has been involved in social work and politics.
At present, he is the vice-chairman of the Ex-Servicemen Corporation. He had also led a movement Chandigarh-Manali four-lane affected people demanding compensation for them. He was a frontrunner for the BJP ticket in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, too.
Thakur filed his nomination papers on Thursday at Mandi in presence of chief minister Jai Ram Thakur, state party chief Suresh Kashyap and other senior leaders.
Later addressing a public meeting, Thakur said a solider always remains a soldier. “I may not have any political experience, but I know the issues of the public and their expectations,” he added.
CM Jai Ram said that Thakur had won the Kargil and now he has come to win Mandi.
Twist in the tale in Jubbal-Kotkhai
The BJP changed its strategy in Jubbal-Kotkhai. Earlier, the party was planning to field Chetan Bragta, the son of former minister Narendra Bragta whose death in June necessitated the bypoll. The party decided to go with 52-year-old Neelam Saraik as the high command is against promoting dynastic politics. It was also reasoned that Chetan was merely the head of the party’s IT wing and did not have substantial experience in electoral politics.
Saraik’s belongs to a family of horticulturists. She joined the BJP in 1997 and rose in the ranks to become the vice-president of the Shimla district Mahila Morcha in 2004 and remained its president till 2010. Later, she served as general secretary of state Mahila Morcha and is its spokesperson at present.
She was pradhan of the Baghar panchayat and zila parishad thrice from Tharola ward in Jubbal and Kotkhai.
BJP reposes faith in Ratan Pal Singh in Arki
In Arki, the BJP reposed faith in Ratan Pal Singh. He had contested the elections against six-time chief minister Virbhadra Singh but lost. Ratan Pal is vice-president of the HP State Co-operative Development Corporation.
Wrangling for ticket in Fatehpur
In Fatehpur, vice-president Kripal Parmar and local leader Baldev Thakur were being touted as the frontrunners, but the BJP chose to go with Baldev. He is currently a member of state party working committee
He had earlier contested the 2012 assembly election on party ticket from Fatehpur, but lost to the Congress’ Sujan Singh Pathania. However, he was denied ticket in 2017 elections and was replaced with Kripal Parmar.
Baldev rebelled and contested the election as an Independent, securing over 13,000 votes which ultimately led to BJP candidate Parmar’s defeat as the Congress won the seat.
Fake list circulates on social media, BJP files plaint
Himachal Pradesh BJP filed a complaint at the Shimla cyber crime police station after a fake list of candidates started doing rounds on social media before the party officially declared its nominees.
BJP office-bearer Pyar Singh Kanwar alleged that before the party announced its candidates, a false press release was circulated on social media (WhatsApp) by an anonymous person impersonating BJP national general secretary Arun Singh.