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India

Four Months Away From Himachal Polls, BJP As Riddled With Factionalism As Congress

Two BJP leaders join Cong, a former minister sitting on the fence

Himachal Pradesh CM Jai Ram Thakur
File photo of Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur. (Image: ANI)

Chandigarh: As the Assembly polls in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh are four months away, while Congress is riddled with factionalism, trouble is also brewing big time in the saffron party. Former ministers of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Himachal have either quit the party or are hinting at fighting elections independently. What’s more, three banners of revolt have been reported from three different parts of the state – Kangra, Shimla and Kullu.

While former BJP president and ex-forest minister Khimi Ram joined the Congress ranks about a fortnight ago, another former BJP minister Ravinder Ravi has hinted that he will contest elections whether the party gives him the ticket or not. Ravi reportedly got miffed after Hoshiyar Singh, his bete noire and independent MLA from Dehra, in Kangra, was inducted into the party. Hoshiyar had defeated BJP’s Ravi in the 2017 elections from Dehra.

Indu Verma, the wife of former three-time BJP MLA from Theog late Rakesh Verma, has also joined Congress.

While former BJP chief Khimi Ram has won two elections from Banjar in Kullu district and is seen as a strong leader in that region, Dehra and Jaisinghpur are Ravinder Ravi’s bastions in Kangra. Similarly, from Theog, Indu Verma is strong in the Assembly seats of Theog and Chaupal. Her late husband Rakesh Verma was a three-time MLA from Theog. Between the three of them, they have the capability to swing election results in at least 10 seats.

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Ravi is a staunch Prem Kumar Dhumal loyalist and has been a five-time lawmaker. Ravi has represented Jaisinghpur on four occasions and once he was elected the MLA from Dehra. If he leaves BJP, the Rajput voters of Kangra who vote en masse may nullify BJP’s chances of doing well in the Rajput-dominated seats of Kangra. Kangra district sends 15 MLAs to Himachal Assembly.

Ravi is keen on fighting from Sulah. A huge part of Ravi’s previous seat Thural was merged into Sulah. This seat also happens to be the home turf of Speaker Vipin Singh Parmar. That Ravi and Parmar share a blow hot blow cold relationship is known to all.

Notably, the young Turks of the BJP are parts of two lobbies of the old guard of Himachal BJP. Ravi and Parmar had a fallout after Ravi purportedly shared a letter criticising the Jai Ram Thakur-led BJP government. The letter written by Shanta Kumar stated that the health and industry department was involved in corruption. Then Vipin Parmar was the health minister in the Jai Ram Thakur government.

Though earlier on, Jai Ram Thakur’s name for the chief minister’s position had Shanta’s approval against the name of Prem Kumar Dhumal.

Dhumal in the last elections had lost to Rajinder Singh Rana an independent candidate from Sujanpur in the 2017 elections. Rana is now part of Congress.