Congress leader and six-time Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh will file his nomination papers for the November 9 assembly polls on Friday while his arch rival and BJP leader Prem Kumar Dhumal is yet to decide a date to file papers.
This time both political rivals are trying their luck from new seats.
Virbhadra Singh is contesting from Arki in Solan district and Dhumal from Sujanpur in Hamirpur district. The former desired to contest from the new seat. Both Arki and Sujanpur seats were won by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2012 assembly elections.
The Congress leader will be accompanied by Vidya Stokes and other party leaders when he files his nomination papers. He is also planning to hold a road show and start his campaign from there.
Virbhadra Singh, 83, who has been declared as the Congress Chief Ministerial candidate, is pitted against the Bharatiya Janata Party’s greenhorn Ratan Singh Pal.
From this seat, the BJP ignored sitting legislator Govind Ram and allotted ticket to Pal.
BJP’s Dhumal has swapped his present Hamirpur seat, the pocket borough of the BJP, with party legislator Narendra Thakur, who will be the party candidate from the seat. Dhumal launched his campaign from Sujanpur two days ago.
Party sources said Dhumal was likely to file papers on October 23.
Suspense still continues over allocating ticket to Virbhadra Singh’s son Vikramaditya Singh, who is eagerly awaiting his electoral debut from Shimla (Rural), the seat his father won with a record margin of 19,033 votes in 2012.
Vikramaditya is currently the state Youth Congress President and his father had already declared that his son would be contesting the next polls from Shimla (Rural).
The BJP has fielded Pramod Sharma from Shimla (Rural). He was once known as a close aide of Virbhadra Singh.
The Congress on Wednesday announced its first list of 59 candidates. The remaining nine are likely to be announced on Friday.
The contest from Sujanpur seems interesting this time as the Congress has fielded Rajinder Rana, who knows the Dhumal family inside out. This would help the Congress give a befitting reply to the BJP.
Rana in 2012 won the assembly elections from this seat as an Independent and later joined the Congress. However, ahead of the 2014 general election, he vacated the seat and contested the Lok Sabha election from Hamirpur.
He was routed by BJP’s Anurag Thakur, the son of Dhumal.
In the 2012 elections to the 68-member assembly, which saw a voter turnout of 73.92 per cent, the Congress won 36 seats, the BJP 26 and Independents six.
The BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections had won all the four seats with a vote percentage of 53.85 per cent. At that time, the Congress, which was at helm in the state, got 41.07 per cent votes.