Congress wins three of Himachal's four seats

PTI | ByIndo-Asian News Service, Shimla
May 14, 2004 07:00 PM IST

The Indian National Congress party is back with a bang in the hills of Himachal Pradesh by winning three of the state's four Lok Sabha seats.

The Congress party is back with a bang in the hills of Himachal Pradesh by winning three of the state's four parliamentary seats.

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The biggest upset was the loss of senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former chief minister Shanta Kumar, who lost his Kangra seat to Chander Kumar of the Congress, which had drawn a blank in the last General Election.

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But the most high profile contest was witnessed in Mandi -- the country's second largest parliamentary constituency in terms of size -- which had two blue-blooded candidates in the fray.

Here, Pratibha Singh of the Congress beat the BJP's Maheshwar Singh. Pratibha, the wife of Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, avenged her defeat by Maheshwar in the last elections.

Retired army officer Dhani Ram Shandil of the Congress won from the Shimla (reserved) seat by defeating Hira Nand Kashyap of the BJP, a former Indian Administrative Service officer.

In a close finish, BJP's Suresh Chandel retained the Hamirpur seat by defeating Ram Lal Thakur of the Congress by 1,625 votes.

In the last elections, the BJP won three seats and its ally, the Himachal Vikas Congress, won the fourth.

Former central minister Sukh Ram recently returned to the Congress fold and helped the party win from Mandi, where he wields considerable influence.

In the assembly polls a year ago, the Congress had routed the BJP.

Last year Shimla was the venue for a brainstorming session by the Congress, following which the party sent out a message to India's ruling coalition that it was ready for an electoral battle.

The Shimla conclave also decided to form alliances with like-minded secular parties to defeat the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.

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