By Vishal Gulati
Shimla: For the Congress party leadership in BJP-ruled Himachal Pradesh, contesting the parliamentary polls appears to be an uphill task.
A majority of Congress leaders apparently consider themselves over the hill, while all four incumbent BJP Members of Parliament are enthusiastic about going to the voters again.
“There is too much confusion over who will lead the party in the Lok Sabha elections or who will contest,” a senior state Congress leader, who did not wish to be identified, told IANS.
He said the party is divided into two camps — one led by six-time Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and the other by former Union Minister Anand Sharma.
Octogenarian Virbhadra Singh has refused to contest the Lok Sabha elections from the Mandi seat he has thrice represented since 1971.
Former state ministers Mukesh Agnihotri and Asha Kumari and former state party president Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu are also reluctant to contest, party insiders say.
The reason they cited is the party high command’s decision not to field incumbent legislators.
“The party cadre and the leaders are confused about who their leader is and who will take the party to victory,” said a senior Congress leader, a cabinet minister in the previous Virbhadra Singh-led government.
Virbhadra Singh and his former MP wife Pratibha Singh, who are facing graft charges, are keen to launch their first-time legislator son Vikramaditya Singh from the Mandi seat.
So is incumbent legislator Rajinder Rana, who is pleading the case of his greenhorn son from Hamirpur, a seat represented by three-time MP Anurag Thakur of the BJP. Rana has Virbhadra Singh’s backing.
“We are not in favour of fielding sitting legislators or kin of the leaders. We are going take a final decision on candidates soon,” Congress state in-charge Rajni Patil told reporters.
The BJP, led by Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, seems confident of doing well in the polls.
Undeterred by the allegations of favouritism, Thakur told IANS that development would be the main agenda in the Lok Sabha polls.
“During the last five years, there has been unprecedented and unparallel development. The people of the country want Prime Minister Narendra Modi to once again lead the nation and thus, would definitely support him.”
On getting a free hand to lead the party in the general elections, he said: “Each and every party worker of the BJP is our strength and responsible for the victory of the party. Being head of the state, I would have greater responsibility to motivate rank and file to ensure the victory of the party.”
As per the political trend emerging in two decades, the electorate in the Lok Sabha polls has been traditionally favouring the party at the helm in the state.
(Vishal Gulati can be reached at [email protected])