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Winners Take All: Himachal Cong To Pick ‘Tried, Tested’ Candidates to Thwart Defections Ahead of Polls

By: Swati Bhan

News18.com

Last Updated: July 12, 2022, 17:11 IST

Chandigarh

Himachal Cong president Pratibha Singh, co-in-charge Gurkeerat Singh Kotli and Opposition leader Mukesh Agnihotri at a Nav Sankalp camp in Hamirpur on Tuesday. (Twitter)

Himachal Cong president Pratibha Singh, co-in-charge Gurkeerat Singh Kotli and Opposition leader Mukesh Agnihotri at a Nav Sankalp camp in Hamirpur on Tuesday. (Twitter)

“The names of candidates who have been winning and have retained these seats for more than one term will be announced soon. We need to give them considerable time to start their campaign,” said a senior HP Congress leader

In an attempt to thwart bids by “disgruntled” party leaders to defect ahead of the year-end Himachal Pradesh assembly elections, the Congress plans to hold on to leaders with “high winning” rate.

The state unit has been asked by the party high command to adopt proactive measures to prevent defections witnessed in other states such as Punjab a few months before the polls.

Among the flurry of decisions taken during the recently concluded meeting in Delhi with state leaders and Himachal party in-charge, Rajeev Shukla, was that the Congress would declare in advance the names of candidates on seats, which have been traditional Congress bastions, and retained despite a perceptible Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wave in the 2017 assembly elections.

“The names of candidates who have been winning and have retained these seats for more than one term will be announced soon. We need to reward them for their contribution and also give them considerable time to start their campaign,” said a senior HP Congress leader, who was part of the meeting.

THE HOT SEATS

Party insiders admitted that the leaders needed to start early if they have to unsettle the incumbent BJP. “Not just the BJP, the new entrant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has already started their field campaign. There is a threat that they might cut into our traditional vote bank,” admitted a leader.

Some of the seats which the Congress has identified include four in Shimla district that covers Rampur, which the Congress has never lost, Rohru, Kinnaur and Kasumpti, which the party has been able to retain for the past three terms, and also Shimla rural.

Mukesh Agnihotri, who has been the Leader of Opposition in Himachal Pradesh, has been retaining his seat Haroli in Una district for the past four terms and will also be one of the first whose name is expected for the seat. In Kangra district too, the party has been able to retain Palampur for the past two terms.

WON’T MAKE ONE LEADER THE FACE

While the BJP has been concentrating on Mandi, the home constituency of Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, and Hamirpur, the constituency of union minister Anurag Thakur, the Congress has pockets which they have retained despite the BJP’s strong hold.

The Congress is also expected to announce the names of Asha Kumari, senior leader who represented Dalhousie for two terms, and Shandil in Solan. With the fear that young leaders, who were active during former CM Virbhadra Singh’s tenure, might leave the Congress, the party is likely to involve these leaders in constituencies such as Dharamshala and Kasumpti.

The party has also decided not to highlight just one leader in the run-up to the polls. “In the past, highlighting just one leader seems to have caused some heartburn and the internal squabbles damaged the party’s chances. This time, we want all on board,” said a leader

The party has also announced Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Bhagel as the senior observer and Sachin Pilot and Partap Bajwa as observers for the polls.

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first published:July 12, 2022, 16:56 IST
last updated:July 12, 2022, 17:11 IST