Rebels likely to upset calculations

A day after the BJP expelled 10 rebel candidates, the Congress on Wednesday expelled 25 of its rebels, including an MLA, for six years.

HPCC chief Virbhadra Singh expelled MLA Yograj from Dehra, former minister Ishwar Dass (Ani), former MLAs Kashmir Singh (Ghumarwin) and Mast Ram (Karsog), and 21 others who are contesting against party candidates in the November 4 Assembly polls, the party said.

Of the total number of Independents contesting the polls, at least 34 were till recently active members of either the BJP or the Congress. The rebels include former minister Roop Singh Thakur of the BJP and former Congress MLA O P Rattan, who has joined the Trinamool Congress and is contesting from Una. While the scenario is worrisome for the BJP in Kangra, Mandi, Solan and Hamirpur districts, the Congress faces prominent rebels in Shimla, Sirmaur, Chamba, Mandi districts as well as in Manali and Kullu (Sadar) seats.

The Congress also faces embarrassment due to a revolt by the royal family of Junga, who are Virbhadra's relatives. Vijay Jyoti Sen, wife of Veer Vikram Sen, who is brother of Virbhadra's wife Pratibha, is contesting as an independent from Kasumpti. Pratibha had applied for a ticket from Kasumpti, but the party gave it to Shimla Zila Parishad chairman Anirudh Singh, resulting in a revolt in the Block Congress Committee. Veer Vikram Sen is BCC president of Kasumpti. However, his wife is not a member of the party, said District Congress Committee (Shimla-Rural) president Kehar Singh Khachi.

The BJP has reportedly decided to act with caution. "Top party leaders, including Kalraj Mishra, who is state incharge, national general secretary J P Nadda and Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, will hold a meeting and then take a decision. I believe the rebels will be given some time to withdraw," said party spokesperson Ganesh Dutt.

However, the BJP rebels seem to be in no mood to retire. "I have already begun my campaign, and have set up quick response teams at 98 booths. The party has obliged a person whose caste certificate has been challenged in the high court. Why should I forgo my claim to the seat when I have toured every segments of the constituency after being given a go ahead for Solan," reasoned a senior leader in the fray, H N Kashyap.

In Jawali, Sudha Sushant, wife of sitting BJP MP Rajan Sushant, is fighting election as an independent. At Sujanpur, Rajender Rana, a close confident of Dhumal, has decided to contest against sitting MLA Urmil Thakur.

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