Tuesday, February 1, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Papers filed amid protests
From S.P. Sharma
Tribune News Service

SOLAN, Jan 31 — Angry protests by supporters of the union minister, Mr Shanta Kumar, marked the filing of nomination papers for the byelection for the Solan Assembly seat by the Chief Minister P.K. Dhumal-backed BJP candidate, Mr Rajiv Bindal, here today.

The Shanta Kumar supporters tried to prevent the procession of Mr Bindal led by about a dozen ministers and senior party functionaries from proceeding the Deputy Commissioner’s office for filing the nomination and demanded that Mr Mohinder Nath Sofat should be declared the BJP nominee.

The State BJP chief, Mr Suresh Chandel, and some ministers were heckled by the agitated Shanta Kumar supporters. Police personnel who were posted in strength, intervened to clear the way for the procession to proceed from the rest house compound.

The atmosphere in the town was tense since the morning as both factions of the BJP stood face to face in the PWD rest house compound. The Shanta Kumar supporters raised slogans against the Dhumal camp. The situation was brought under control with the intervention of the Health Minister, Mr J.P. Nadda, and the Sports Minister, Mr Parveen Sharma.

Supporters of the Himachal Vikas Congress (HVC), stood on the other side of the road carrying banners and demanding that the BJP should leave the seat for their nominee, Mr Haminder Thakur.

However, the HVC chief, Mr Sukh Ram, who led his supporters for filing the nomination papers of Mr Thakur, faced on awkward situation as none of the minister belonging to his party, including the PWD Minister, Mr Mohinder Singh, and the Rural Development Minister, Mr Ram Lal Markanda, was present on the occasion. This not only created an embarrassing situation for the party leaders, but has also brought the groupism in the HVC to the fore.

A BJP rebel, Mr Netar Singh, who is president of Bashal panchayat here, filed his nomination as an Independent. He is considered a man of the Shanta Kumar faction. Mr Khyali Ram, district president of the BJP’s Kisan Morcha filed his papers as his covering candidate.

The BJP leaders were hopeful that the crisis would be settled through negotiations within two or three days.

Mr Sukh Ram, on the other hand, told reporters that he will reach Delhi tomorrow to discuss the issue with the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, and other leaders of the BJP high command and hoped that the impasse would be solved.

When asked as to why did not he want to discuss the issue with the Chief Minister, Mr P.K. Dhumal, he said he was pained as Mr Dhumal did not take him into confidence over sharing of the Solan seat and talked to him only after almost finalising the BJP nominee. Mr Sukh Ram said this was for the first time since the BJP-HVC coalition came into being that Mr Dhumal had acted in such a manner.

Mr Sukh Ram regretted that the HVC had been allowed to contest only one Assembly seat out of the six seats for which byelections were held during the past two years. Besides, the HVC had given its two MLAs and ministers, Mr Mansa Ram and Mr Prakash Chaudhary, to the BJP. Thus the HVC was genuinely claiming that it should be allowed to contest the Solan seat and the BJP should step out.

Even after the HVC candidate had filed his nomination, supporters of Mr Sofat tried to persuade him to jump into the fray as an Independent.

Mr Sofat, with tears in his eyes, said that after having succeeded in getting the Congress MLA, Ms Krishna Mohini, unseated by the court, he never expected that by denying him the BJP ticket the party would play a cruel joke on him. He said he would not indulge in indiscipline by filing his papers as an Independent. He said the anger of his supporters would cool in a few days and they will join the election campaign of the official candidate.

Addressing a rally, Mr Sukh Ram, who was accompanied by the Working President of the HVC, Mr Vijay Joshi, Mr O.P. Rattan and Mr Chaman Lal Ghachli, said that he wanted that the cooperation between the HVC and the BJP should continue and he did not want to create political uncertainty and create hurdles in the process of development.

He said the seat was vacated due to the initiative which Mr Sofat took by filing an election petition in the court.

Now that Mr Sofat has been denied the BJP ticket, then there was no harm in the HVC claiming the seat. He indicated that the HVC might have not claimed the seat, had Mr Sofat been given the ticket.

Among the BJP ministers and leaders present on the occasion of filing of nominations by Mr Bindal were, Mr Suresh Chandel, Mr Maheshwar Singh, both MPs, Mr J.P. Nadda, Mr Vidya Sagar, Mr Kishori Lal, Mr Parveen Sharma, Mr R.R. Kaundal, Mr Roop Dass Kashyap, Mr Karan Singh and Ms Shyama Sharma, all ministers.

In all, four nominations were filed for the seat. These include those of Ms Krishana Mohini (Cong), Mr Rajeev Bindal (BJP), Mr Haminder Singh (HVC) and Mr Neter Singh Independent besides, four covering candidates have also filed their papers.

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