By D N Singh
With the hear beats rising in the BJP camp for the coming Assembly polls in Gujarat, the party in power there has been working overtime for the damage repairs in the recently concluded polls in Himachal. More so, because of the increasing number of rebels who possibly have had a chunk of traditional votes swinging either way.
So, the BJP in particular, is serious about being defensive in Himachal as well. With AAP creating jitters in the saffron camp in Gujarat, BJP has to have its bearings in tact that, at least one among the two(HP & Gujarat) do not slip from under its feet.
Sensing a neck-and-neck contest between Himachal Pradesh’s ruling BJP and the Congress ahead of the assembly election results to be declared on December 8, rebels, who had broken ties with the mainstream parties, have started holding ‘in-door’ parleys with a belief that in politics, there is no permanent enemy or friend.
The BJP and the main Opposition Congress have begun an exercise to keep its numbers in ‘order’ in case of hung House.
Insiders told that leaders of both parties are trying to sink their differences with party rebels, whose numbers are nearly 20, to improve the party’s prospects.
The fear of exodus of lawmakers from the Congress is high.
“If the BJP realises it would find it difficult to get enough numbers to save its government, it can lure Congress MLAs with huge sums of money,” observed Ritesh Lekhi, a senior journalist in Shimla
At the same time, there is no harm in holding parleys with the rebels. “After all they are all for power” Lekhi said.
“The problem by rebels seems more serious in the BJP as the party denied ticket to 11 sitting legislators, shifting seats of two ministers, denying nomination to one minister, whose son was fielded from that constituency, and swapping seats of two veterans owing to infighting”, opined Lekhi.
BJP’s rebels, mainly from Kangra and Kullu districts, have started holding parleys to project a united face once the results are out.
A meeting of BJP rebels, Kirpal Singh Parmar, Manohar Dhiman and Sanjay Prashar, who fought the elections as an Independent in Kangra, state’s largest district, was held recently to chalk out a strategy to bring all the like-minded rebels together.
It is learnt that they are holding discussions separately on election prospects with rebels even of the Congress to form a pressure group. For this, they contacted former Congress MLA Jagjivan Pal, who had also contested the elections as an Independent candidate after the party denied him the ticket.
The BJP’s potential rebels include outgoing lawmaker Hoshiyar Singh, who was in the fray again from Dehra as an Independent candidate. He had joined the BJP in the run-up to the elections but the party ignored his claim for the ticket. He contested the elections again as an Independent candidate.
In Mandi, the home district of Chief Minister Jairam Thakur, and Kullu districts, the prominent rebels include Abhishek Thakur, son of six-time legislator Roop Singh, from Sundernagar; Gyan Chauhan from Nachan; and Hiteshwar Singh, the son of Maheshwar Singh, from Banjar.
Rebels matter here
The Congress, too, is not lagging in infighting.
Upset over the denial of a ticket, seven-time lawmaker Gangu Ram Musafir contested as an Independent from his once pocket borough Pachhad in Sirmaur district.
Political observers say there are chances of a 1998 repeat this time too. So both political parties are not taking any chance by banking on their old warhorses to regain their lost political ground.
Of the 412 candidates in the fray, 24 are women and 388 men.
The poll percentage in Himachal Pradesh stood at 75.6 per cent. In 2017 assembly elections, it was 75.57.