Chandel misses the Cong bus, Sukhu to fight Anurag Thakur
Shimla: There are many slips between the cup and the lip. An old proverb seems to have come true for three-time former BJP MP Suresh Chandel, whose move to join the Congress was scuttled at the last minute on Thursday.
His name was going around as possible Congress candidate from Hamirpur Parliamentary constituency to face three-time MP Anurag Thakur, son of former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal.
But, on Thursday tables were turned on him by the Congress.
Instead of Chandel, the Congress seems to have decided to field former PCC president Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, who was quite reluctant to fight the poll and rather had been pushing for the candidature of Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Mukesh Agnihotri.
A formal announcement about Sukhu is likely to be made on Friday or Saturday.
Insiders say Congress president Rahul Gandhi had summoned Sukhu after reports that former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh was opposed to Chandel's entry to the Congress, much to give him the ticket from Hamirpur.
In that eventually, the six-time Chief Minister could not have campaigned for the party. He is already said to be upset on the Congress decision to readmit former Telecom minister Sukh Ram with his grandson Ashray Sharma at tow --- as both don't see eye-to-eye.
Sharma is going to be made as Congress candidate from Mandi – a seat Virbhadra had won in 2009 to become a cabinet minister in the UPA-II. His wife Pratibha Singh was also been two-time MP from Mandi.
Insiders say Virbhadra was not taken into confidence before allowing Sukh Ram to make a homecoming much less to say his grandson given the ticket at a time when Sukh Ram's son Anil Sharma was a cabinet minister in the BJP government in the state.
Camping in Delhi, Virbhadra queered the pitch for Chandel – a disgruntled BJP leader seeking refuge in the Congress after his own party did not give him a ticket in 2017 assembly polls, and even for next Lok Sabha.
Chandel – one of 11 sitting MPs, then of them from Lok Sabha, was caught on camera in what it was called as "cash for questions' sting operation in 2004, had lost his Lok Sabha membership immediately after the expose in operation – 'Duryodhana' as it was aptly named.
Facing disillusionment with his own party, especially Dhumals, Chandel also did not find much favours from Union Health Minister JP Nadda, who also hails from Bilaspur – Chandel's home town.
His meetings with the Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and later BJP national president Amit Shah also did not bear fruits. So, he turned to Congress.
"Things are almost final but for Virbhadra Singh making a last-minute entry to jeopardise Chandel's plans," admits a sitting Congress MLA.
Another factor going against Chandel was stiff opposition in the Congress spilling over on the streets of Bilaspur town here the Congressmen held protests and burnt effigy of Chandel.
Hamirpur parliamentary constituency is spread through Hamirpur, Bilaspur, Una and some parts of Kangra districts.