Shimla: The rebels might play spoilsport for both Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party in Himachal Pradesh. In the last Assembly polls, BJP had suffered loss of a significant vote share because of rebels.
In 2012, Congress had won 36 seats while BJP won 26, down from 41 in 2007. According to political analysts, rebels were the main cause behind BJP's poor show in the hill state. Congress got 42.81% votes, compared with 39.54% in 2007. A difference of just 4.34% votes led to a thumping victory for the Grand Old Party.
In 2012, BJP secured 38.47% of popular votes. Admitting defeat, senior party leader Arun Jaitley had said, "Rebellion in the party could be a factor behind BJP's defeat. The defeat is more on account of BJP's internal troubles than a vote in favour of Congress. We could have won in Himachal if there weren't so many rebels."
While BJP, to some extent, has been successful in placating its disgruntled leaders who were denied ticket; the Congress, barring few, has failed to do so.
It's not that Congress is unaware of trouble that rebel may pose. Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh recently said, "There are about five seats where ticket distribution was very wrong and injustice has been done with deserving candidates, who stood a fair chance of winning."
The party reportedly tasked senior leaders, including former Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda and former Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat, to placate the rebels and convince them to withdraw their independent candidature. But with date for withdrawal of candidature passing last Thursday, it seems, cajoling hasn't worked much.
Take for example the candidature of 77-year-old Congress leader Vijay Singh Mankotia. The former minister and five-time MLA between 1982 and 2003 did not apply for party's ticket and is contesting as an independent from his citadel of Shahpur in Kangra district. In 2012, he polled 22,364 votes and lost to BJP's Sarveen by a margin of 3123 votes.
Harish Janartha, a staunch loyalist of CM Virbhadra Singh, is another case in point. Ignoring his claim for ticket, Congress fielded Harbhajan Singh Bhajji. The former Shimla deputy mayor Janartha is contesting as an independent. Notably Janaratha lost the last Assembly poll to BJP's Suresh Bhardwaj by a wafer thin margin of 628 votes.
Nalagarh in Solan district has another Congress rebel in Hardeep Singh Bawa. As Chairman of Building & Other Construction Workers Welfare Board he has nurtured the seat for the last eight years. The BJP had won the seat in 2012 with a margin of 9308 votes.
CM Virbhadra Singh's home seat Ramgarh in Shimla district has been a Congress stronghold. In 2012, Nand Lal of the party trounced BJP's Khimi Ram by a margin of 9292 votes. But, this time, winning this seat might be tough for the party. Six-time MLA from the seat and former minister Singhi Ram has entered the fray as an independent.
In Darang, former Mandi district president Puran Chand Thakur has opted to go independent. He is up against senior Congress leader and health minister Kaul Singh Thakur. Congress victory margin in the seat was of 2232 votes in 2012.
The situation for the BJP, though better than 2012, is far from good.
In Fatehpur, two BJP rebels Baldev Thakur and Rajan Sushant are queering the pitch for official candidate Kripal Singh Parmar. Thakur lost the 2012 poll on BJP ticket to Congress’ Sujan Singh Pathania by a margin of 7217 votes.
Likewise, in Palampur, party's official candidate Indu Bala faces danger from rebel Praveen Kumar, a Shanta Kumar loyalist. In the last poll Congress candidate trumped Kumar by a margin of 9029 votes.
Sri Renukaji, Chamba and Haroli are the other seats where rebels can make the life difficult for Saffron Camp.