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Sunday, December 3, 2023

Virbhadra loyalist dumps Congress citing nepotism in Himachal

Close on the heels of the Rajasthan fiasco fissures in the Himachal Congress came to the fore with a close confidante of former Chief minister late Virbhadra Singh & current working president of the party leaving the Congress to join the BJP. 

The hill state is scheduled to go to the polls in November and Mahajan’s strategizing ability could be missed by the Congress ahead of the assembly elections.

 Mahajan was more of a backroom player and a staunch Virbhadra loyalist having not contested an election since 2007 in spite of repeated requests from the constituency he represented (Chamba). He was repeatedly requested by the people of Chamba to contest from the constituency he represented from 1993 to 2007 but he refused to cite personal reasons. 

Asha Kumari a senior Congresswoman,  AICC  secretary &  an MLA  from the Dalhousie constituency blamed Mahajan for dumping the people of Chamba for the last 15 years and thereby helping the BJP covertly since the Congress failed to win from Chamba after Mahajan refused to contest.

 Mahajan blamed the infighting, nepotism & sale of tickets at the party for his exit. He claimed that he will disclose the names of people who are involved in this. However, there were unconfirmed reports that Harsh Mahajan was denied a party ticket for the upcoming elections which made him exit the party. But the fact remains that he refused to contest since 2007 in spite of the party & the people’s incessant requests. 

Congress which is eyeing power in the State and banking on anti-incumbency has been facing factionalism from the time former CM  Virbhadra Singh’s wife was made president of the party and the late CM’s bete noire Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu was made the chairman of the campaign committee and also a member of the candidates screening committee by the party high command.

 Mukesh Agnihotri an MLA from Una who is the leader of the opposition in the current assembly was apparently sidelined in these appointments as was Kaul Singh a former minister & president of the party. This has led to the emergence of parallel factions in the Congress with many CM aspirants including  Agnihotri,  Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, and Sudhir Sharma & not to forget the president herself.

 It seems the Congress is just banking on the State’s history where no government has been able to repeat its term in the last 37 years & it looked all set to repeat history when it won the prestigious  Mandi parliamentary constituency where the current president of the party and the wife of 7 times late CM of the State Smt Pratibha Singh won the election. 

The Congress also won the 3 assembly bypolls convincingly held alongside by a convincing margin putting the ruling BJP on the back foot. The Mandi victory was a morale booster for the Congress as it made inroads into CM Jai Ram Thakur’s bastion.

Pratibha Singh was rewarded  with the presidentship of the party for her victory  but Nadaun  MLA & former President  of the state Congress Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu was made the chairman of the campaign committee by  the high command thus creating  a parallel  power structure in the state

 When Virbhadra Singh was the Chief Minister of Himachal  Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu was the State president and the former  CM was not happy with the latter’s appointment and conveyed his displeasure to the high command in no uncertain terms. Both have been at loggerheads in the State & that rivalry has now shifted in the family with both being given key appointments. 

Harsh Mahajan a staunch  Virbhadra loyalist was also given his due and made the senior vice president but apparently being denied the party ticket this time and feeling sidelined in the power hierarchy in the absence of his master the late Virbhadra  Singh, made him jump over or was it poaching by the BJP where they laid their hands on a party insider who was privy to all that happened behind the scenes in the state Congress. 

But we may not have heard the last on the exodus of top leaders from the Congress in the hill state if reports are to be believed. 

Snow in the higher reaches has plummeted the temperatures in the hill state but the political temperatures are sure to rise ahead of the polls.

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Aman Gupta
Aman Gupta
Political Editor, Samast Bharat magazine


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