Congess veterans locked in grim electoral battles in Himachal

Congress veterans Gangu Ram Musafir and Vijay Singh Mankotia with three decades in electoral politics and a record of contesting all seven Assembly elections since 1982 are locked in grim electoral battles in their respective constituencies of Pachhad (SC) and Shahpur.

Both of them were elected as Independents for the first time in 1982 and later joined Congress.

While Musafir remained in Congress, all along, Mankotia quit the Congress twice, went on political exile and rejoined the party last month.

Gangu Ram had smooth sailing in five elections but managed to win by only 1,300 votes in 2003 and faced tough challenge from Suresh Kashyap of BJP in 2007 elections and scraped through with a thin margin of about 1,700 votes.

Mankotia also won four elections in a row, one as an Independent, two on Congress ticket and one as Janta Dal candidate but lost to Sarveen Chowdhary of BJP in 1998.

He avenged his defeat in 2003 polls but left Congress in 2007 to join the BSP, shifted to Dharamsala and lost the election.

He went into political exile and suddenly decided to join Congress on the eve of elections and is again in the fray from his old constituency of Shahpur and facing his traditional rival Sarveen Chowdhary.

Musafir, who remained Speaker of Himachal Vidhan Sabha and minister in three ministries has been a Virbhadra Singh loyalist all along but Mankotia caused enough embarrassment to Singh by levelling serious allegations and quit the party in 1988 and 2007.

He raked up the Bagyawati case in 1987 and released an audio CD in 2007 which landed Singh in deep trouble but surprisingly, Virbhadra Singh did not oppose his re-entry into Congress in 1992 and 2012 under his leadership.

Singh is supporting both the candidates but the going is not easy for both of them as anti-incumbency of thirty years is weighing against the old war horse Musafir in Pachhad and while electorate in Shahpur, especially the Congressmen are surprised over sudden volte-face by Mankotia, who has overtly sunk his differences with Singh.

... contd.

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