Confusion prevailed in the Himachal Pradesh Congress on Thursday following the AICC abrupt move to replace its Dharamsala candidate, Sudhir Sharma, with Manoj Kumar Gaddi, leaving state party president Virbhadra Singh and Sharma fuming in anger. Sharma, a Virbhadra loyalist, was reportedly asked to contest from Jwalamukhi constituency.
Sharma was allotted the ticket from Dharamsala, as his constituency Baijnath has been reserved for a SC candidate. He is son of veteran Congress leader late Sant Ram.
The PCC office, in the afternoon, received a communication from the AICC — signed by party national general secretary Oscar Fernandes — about Gaddi being allotted the ticket. Gaddi was being backed by sitting Jodhpur MP Chandresh Kumari. She herself was a contender for the ticket here, but declined at the last stage. Congress’ central election committee had earlier named Sanjay Rattan from Jwalamukhi.
Yet within an hour of the development, Virbhadra — currently campaigning in Chamba and Kangra districts — reportedly got in touch with the party high command, including AICC general secretary Birender Chaudhry, and made it clear that Sharma must be retained from Dharamsala keeping in mind his chances of winning, instead of a green horn like Gaddi.
“Since Virbhadra Singh is in full command of the party’s campaign and himself had got every candidate cleared, his assessment should be given due weightage,” said a senior AICC leader.
Meanwhile, Virbhadra’s brother-in-law Prithivi Sen, whose brother Veer Vikram Sen had resigned from the Kasumpati Block Congress committee protesting against the allottment of ticket to Shimla Zila Parishad Chairman Anirudh Singh, said there was no change in stand taken by the block unit. Asked if Virbhadra had intervened to stop Vijay Jyoti Sen, wife of Veer Vikram Sen, from contesting as an Independent, he said: “Nothing has happened.”