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Congress in dilemma over fielding BJP rebels in Himachal Pradesh bypolls

Chief Minister Sukhu in Delhi to meet party top brass

Congress in dilemma over fielding BJP rebels in Himachal Pradesh bypolls

Ram Lal Markanda



Tribune News Service

Pratibha Chauhan

Shimla, April 24

Even as deliberations are on in the Congress for finalising the names of the candidates for two Lok Sabha constituencies and six seats for the Assembly bypoll, the party leadership remains divided on the issue of fielding BJP rebels who are keen to contest on Congress ticket.

Rakesh Kalia

There is talk of former BJP minister Ram Lal Markanda, three-time former Gagret MLA Rakesh Kalia and BJP’s Sujanpur candidate in the 2022 HP elections Ranjit Rana being fielded by the Congress from the Lahaul-Spiti, Gagret (Una) and Sujanpur (Hamirpur) seats. Party sources said a section of the state leadership was opposed to fielding BJP rebels as it would demoralise the party cadre.

Sukhu in Delhi to meet party brass

  • Congress sources said a section of the HP leadership was opposed to fielding BJP rebels — Ram Lal Markanda, Rakesh Kalia and Ranjit Rana — as it would demoralise the party cadre
  • Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu left for Delhi on Wednesday to discuss ticket allocation with party brass

Despite this, the possibility of Markanda and Kalia being nominated cannot be ruled out. Kalia and Ranjit Rana have already joined the Congress. Feedback from senior leaders and surveys have indicated that all these three leaders could win from the seats.

Though Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu today left for Delhi, the ticket finalisation is likely to take another three or four days. “We have already had discussions on allocation of the ticket. Congress leaders are already campaigning, so it is wrong to say that we are lagging,” said Sukhu at the Gaggal airport in Kangra. The Congress has fielded two of its sitting MLAs Vikramaditya Singh from Mandi and Vinod Sultanpuri from the Shimla Lok Sabha seats, but the candidates for Hamirpur and Kangra are yet to be finalised.

The party high command is keen on fielding strong candidates from the Hamirpur and Kangra parliamentary seats. Although first-time Nagrota MLA Raghubir Singh Bali from Kangra district has written to AICC president Mallikarjun Kharge to consult him before deciding on his candidature, the probability of his being fielded still remains open. The names of former Una MLA Satpal Raizada and Astha Agnihotri, the daughter of Deputy Chief Minister Mukesh Agnihotri, are under consideration for the Hamirpur seat.

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