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Virbhadra gets say, and way, in ticket allocation

Posted on Oct 08, 06:42PM | IANS

Ahead of assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh, the Congress has tried to keep union minister Virbhadra Singh in good humour by accommodating most of his candidates for the Nov 4 polls.

Sources in the party said the 68-member list released by the party leadership in New Delhi Monday comprises 21 of the 23 sitting legislators, a majority of them owing allegiance to state Congress chief Virbhadra Singh.

The five-time former chief minister, again in the race for the chief minister's post, and senior leaders Kaul Singh, Vidya Stokes, Asha Kumari, G.S. Bali, Gangu Ram Musafir and Dhani Ram Shandil figure in the list.

"The party leadership has given more say to Virbhadra Singh by adjusting most of his candidates, whereas (union minister) Anand Sharma's confidants failed to get the ticket," a party leader told IANS on the condition of anonymity.

Sharma's confidants like Kuldeep Rathore, former two-time legislator Harbhajan Singh Bhajji and Kailash Prashar failed to get the ticket, he said.

Virbhadra Singh, who has been in the Congress for about five decades, has bargained hard with the party leadership for his candidates, political observers say.

The party has, however, denied a ticket to Virbhadra Singh's wife Pratibha Singh, a former MP, from Kasumpati. This is the second time she has been denied a ticket.

In 2009, she was contender for the ticket for the by-election of Rohru, the seat vacated by her husband after he shifted to New Delhi by winning the Lok Sabha election.

Virbhadra Singh's close confidents Harish Janartha, a former deputy mayor of the Shimla Municipal Corporation, and sitting legislator Sudhir Sharma were chosen for the Shimla (urban) and Dharamsala seat.

While Vidya Stokes, whose Kumarsein seat was scrapped in the delimitation exercise, is now contesting from Theog, five-time legislator Vijai Singh Mankotia, who was re-inducted into the party last week, will contest from Shahpur in Kangra district.

Mankotia had released a CD of a telephonic conversation of the alleged monetary transactions between Virbhadra Singh, his wife Pratibha and a former bureaucrat.

The CD later led to the lodging of a first information report (FIR) against Virbhadra Singh and his wife.

Sources in the party said Mankotia and Virbhadra Singh had recently "patched up" following suggestions from the party leadership.

The Congress chose Ajay Mahajan, son of party stalwart Sat Mahajan, who died recently, from Nurpur. From this seat, party general secretary Rhaul Gandhi was keen to give ticket to youth leader Manoj Pathania, but party president Sonia Gandhi finalised the candidature of Mahajan.

Sitting legislator Kush Parmar, son of the state's first chief minister Y.S. Parmar, is re-contesting from Nahan in Sirmaur district.

Virbhadra Singh is contesting from Shimla (rural), the newly carved out seat, while former MP Dhani Ram Shandil is contesting from Solan (SC reserved).

The party has fielded defected BJP leader Narinder Thakur against Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal from Hamirpur. He joined the Congress in 2009 and knows the "ins and outs" of the Dhumal-led government.

The two sitting legislators, Yog Raj from Pragpur and Sohan Lal from Kasumpati, were denied the party ticket.

Yog Raj has already announced his decision to contest from Dehra as an independent.

Himachal Pradesh will elect a new 68-member assembly Nov 4. The votes will be counted Dec 20.