Cong, BJP in spot over selection of candidate for Shimla seat

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Shimla, Nov 6 (UNI) The Himachal Pradesh units of the Congress and the BJP are in a tough situation with large number of candidates seeking ticket to contest elections from the Shimla assembly constituency, which goes to the poll on December 19.

While nine people, including the sitting legislator Habhajan Singh, are seeking ticket from the Congress, double that number have applied for ticket from the BJP for contesting elections from this constituency.

Severe dissidence and several influential leaders in the fray have made the choice of the candidate from this constituency difficult for both the parties.

While several influential district Congress leaders are opposing Mr Bhajji's candidature this time, alleging non performance during the last four and a half years, the BJP has two heavyweights in Rajya Sabha MP and former party president Suresh Bhardwaj and party secretary Khushi Ram Balnatah pitted against each other.

The chinks within the Congress were exposed recently during a meeting of the Shimla Congress Committee meeting, called to discuss the party's strategy for the assembly elections, when activists exchanged blows following the criticism of the sitting legislator by senior district leaders.

The situation was only normalised after the intervention of senior party leaders.

The BJP, on the other hand, has to ensure that one of the two leaders is made to sit in favour of the other without any heartburn, which would otherwise harm the interests of the party in this constituency.

While Mr Bhardwaj had been a legislator from Shimla once in 1990 and had lost from the same segment twice later, Mr Balnatah has fought and lost thrice in a row against Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh from Rohru constituency but with a lesser margin every time.

Besides social activist and senior party member Deshbandhu Sood, who is popular amongst the people as a campaigner for the rights of people, the party spokesman Ashok Kapatia is also a strong contender for BJP ticket this time.

The fact that the constituency goes to the polls during the second phase on December 19 provides the Congress and the BJP to look the other way as the candidates slug it out among themselves till then.


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