In an effort to thwart attempts by the party’s “disgruntled” leaders ahead of the year-end assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh, the Congress plans to nab leaders with a “high victory” rate.
The party high command has asked the state unit to take proactive steps to check the defection that took place in other states like Punjab a few months before the elections.
Amidst a flurry of decisions taken during the recently concluded meeting in Delhi with state leaders and Himachal party in-charge Rajeev Shukla, the Congress will announce the names of candidates for seats that have been traditional Congress strongholds, and in 2017. Despite a direct Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wave in the 2009 assembly elections, it was retained.
“The names of the candidates who are winning and have retained these seats for more than one term will be announced soon. We need to reward them for their contribution and also give them enough time to start their campaign.
Party insiders acknowledged that leaders need to make an early start to destabilize the current BJP. “Not only the BJP, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has also started its election campaign. There is a danger that they may cut into our traditional vote bank,” admitted a leader.
The few seats the Congress has identified include four in Shimla district, which includes Rampur, which the Congress has never lost, Rohru, Kinnaur and Kasumpti, which the party has been able to retain for the last three terms, and Shimla Rural. .
Mukesh Agnihotri, who has been the Leader of Opposition in Himachal Pradesh, has been retaining his seat Haroli in Una district for the last four terms and will be one of the first people expected to be named for the seat. In Kangra district also, the party has been successful in retaining Palampur for the last two terms.
Will not make a leader a face
While the BJP is focusing on Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur’s home constituency Mandi and Union Minister Anurag Thakur’s constituency Hamirpur, the Congress has its own pockets despite the BJP’s strong hold.
The Congress is also expected to announce the names of senior leader Asha Kumari, who represented Dalhousie twice and Shandil in Solan. Fearing that youth leaders who were active during the tenure of former CM Virbhadra Singh might quit the Congress, the party may include these leaders in constituencies like Dharamsala and Kasumpti.
The party has also decided not to expose just one leader before the elections. “In the past, exposing just one leader seems to have caused some resentment and internal squabbles hurting the party’s prospects. This time, we want everyone on board,” said a leader.
The party has also announced Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Bhagel as senior observers and Sachin Pilot and Pratap Bajwa as observers.