At Mandi & Kullu, BJP Rebels Bet on Quarrels in Parents’ Party

“Aaj bhi agar hamari gaadi ki talashi loge to shayad BJP ka jhanda nikal aaye” (Even today if you search our car, you might find a BJP flag lying on it), says Anshul Thakur, the younger brother of the BJP rebel leader Abhishek Thakur, who is now running as an independent candidate for Sundernagar constituency. Their father, Roop Singh, was a multi-term MP for Sundernagar. Roop Singh also remained a minister.

Abhishek’s story is similar to that of many other rebel leaders in Himachal fighting as independents, especially in the Mandi and Kullu belts. While Abhishek is out in the countryside in scenic Sundernagar, Anshul denounces the “disrespect” towards former BJP leaders.

“It is no longer a party of principles that governed leaders like LK Advani. Now older, experienced leaders like my father who won six times from here are being sidelined and we’re sidelined after all the hard work we’ve done for the party. My brother has the best chance of winning in Sundernagar, but even then he didn’t get a ticket,” says Anshul, adding that not only does his brother have the support of BJP cadres, but the weak candidate presented by the party will benefit. their. Congress supporters, however, believe that their candidate, Sohan Lal, will benefit from the BJP’s infighting and emerge victorious.

A few kilometers from the highway, in the town of Mandi, a similar scenario raised the hopes of Congress executives. Here Praveen Kumar, a 17-year BJP veteran, has quit the party and is fighting as an independent candidate. Residents say he receives considerable support from party cadres. Here again, Congress candidate Champa Thakur, daughter of veteran Congress leader Kaul Singh Thakur, is hoping to win the seat amid internal BJP strife.

“The BJP should have given the ticket to Praveen Kumar. He is a deserving candidate and was unfairly denied a ticket in the last election. He has a good chance of winning given the support he enjoys within the party and if not, the Congress candidate will benefit from the BJP vote split,” says Sapna, a resident.

Off the main highway and in the scenic Banjar Valley, with an assembly seat of the same name, the political scene is even more interesting. The top three candidates are linked to the BJP. Congress candidate Khimi Ram is a former BJP state chairman and independent candidate Hiteshwar Singh is the son of top BJP leader Kullu Maheshwar Singh. They will face official BJP candidate Surender Shourie.

Maheshwar Singh had filed paperwork as an independent candidate in Kullu after being denied a ticket, but withdrew his candidacy after intense lobbying from senior BJP leaders. To add to the BJP’s woes here, another BJP rebel, Vice State President Ram Singh, is contesting Kullu’s election as an independent after he was denied a ticket and was expelled from the party.

However, Maheshwar’s son Hiteshwar refused to withdraw his candidacy from Banjar and the party’s vote is expected to trifurcate in the constituency between the three ‘BJP’ leaders who are fighting against each other.

In neighboring Anni constituency, incumbent BJP MP Kishori Lal has turned rebel and is running as an independent.
In Manali, BJP leader Mahender Singh has rebelled against the party after being denied a ticket and is running as an independent. A lawyer by profession, Mahender has a sizable following in the constituency.

The irony is not lost on voters. “Mazak bana diya hai election ka. Lekin kisi ek ko to vote daalna hee hai (They made a joke about the elections. But we have to vote for someone),” says Bhimu Ram of a relative.

With such strong ties to the BJP, the possibility of these independent candidates returning to the party fold if they win, and if the need arises for the BJP to secure crucial numbers in Vidhan Sabha, cannot be ruled out. .

In Sundernagar, Anshul laughs when asked about that possibility and whether blood is thicker than water in electoral politics. “A party has to come to power and someone has to be supported. All this will be seen after winning the elections. But, yes, our families’ longstanding ties to RSS and BJP are a fact. We have a deep association with them. Let’s see what happens,” he said.