The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in Himachal Pradesh is facing a tough fight in the coming two by-elections on Saturday due to factionalism in the party. The BJP and the Congress each had won one seat earlier when their sitting MLAs were elected to the Lok Sabha recently. Senior leaders BJP’s Rajan Sushant and Union Steel Minister Virbhadra Singh of the Congress are in the Lok Sabha now.
However, Dr. Rajan Sushant, who was elected from the Kangra parliamentary seat, was not able to convince his brother Madan Sharma to not fight as a rebel from Jawali against party nominee Baldev Raj Chaudhary. He is clearly spoiling the BJP applecart and giving an obvious advantage to the Congress candidate Sujan Singh Pathania, a former MLA and prominent Rajput leader in the area.
Interestingly, Mr. Sushant has alleged that many BJP leaders, including some confidants of Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, are indirectly supporting his rebel brother than the official party nominee. The BJP candidate, who is an OBC, was tactically selected by the party high command in the constituency, where OBCs and Rajputs are in a majority.
Similarly in Rohru, where the BJP could have an advantage this time due to a refusal of the Congress ticket to Mr. Virbhadra Singh’s wife, the party is divided in supporting Mr. Khushi Ram Balnatha, a loser in the last four elections. Rohru is a Congress stronghold and Mr. Balnatha, who is also the party general secretary, has been pitted against Mr. Singh since 1993. He had made a steady increase in his vote bank and the margin in the last Assembly elections in 2007 was reduced to just 14,000 votes.
But the party leaders from Shimla, of which Rohru is a part, are not favouring Mr. Balnatha and indulged in undercutting, said party insiders. The initial reluctance of Mr. Virbhadra Singh’s supporters in campaigning, after his wife was denied ticket, could also have helped Mr. Balnatha, they said. But the half-hearted attempt in campaigning by his own party men might mar his prospects even in his last battle, said the insiders.