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Cong confusion on candidates as leaders fight it out

Cong confusion on candidates as leaders fight it out

Shimla: Having facilitated the entry of former telecom minister Sukh Ram and his grandson Ashray Sharma—a summersault that hasn't surprised many about 92-year old Sukh Ram, the Congress is still yet to clear that air about candidates for upcoming Lok Sabha seats in Himachal Pradesh.

Insiders say the party, which initially wanted its top leaders to contest the elections and put the ruling BJP in real troubles, is now looking up for new faces to challenge the BJP. The task looks utterly tedious.

One of these new faces is obviously 32-year old Ashray Sharma, Sukh Ram's grandson eager to make his electoral debut in Mandi –a seat once won by Sukh Ram thrice. The corruption taints of Sukh Ram and his bitter enemy Virbhadra Singh is not let it go easily for sure. Fielding greenhorn Ashray from Mandi was only conditioning which Sukh Ram had negotiated Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who seems to fall in Sukh Ram's trap.

The focus is on other three seats as much of the tussle is seen at Hamirpur --- a Lok Sabha seat which the Congress hasn't won after 1996. Who will be party's face to take on three-time MP Anurag Thakur, son of former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal is a big question?

Former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has been openly favouring Abhishek Rana, son of Congress MLA Rajender Rana, who defeated BJP's Chief Ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal in 2017 polls. But, not many are willing to concede the Rana jr –whose standing in the Congress was being questioned by former PCC president Sukhwinder Sukhu and his camp.

Yet, the fact remains that Sukhu is himself not prepared to contest. He rather wants Congress Legislature Party leader Mukesh Agnihotri – a Virbhadra Singh loyalist, to take the poll plunge. Around 13 Congress leaders from the area have written to the party high command suggesting Agnihotri's name.

The effort, however, hasn't borne any fruits. The party is still inclined to Abhishek Rana. Another name in the list happens to be sitting MLA (Naina Devi) Ram Lal Thakur, who had twice unsuccessfully contested from Hamirpur. Thakur's game plan looks clear.

If he gets elected to the Parliament can easily lobby for fielding his son from his assembly constituency. That looks like a remote possibility. Hamirpur is one of the BJP strongholds —where Dhumal is not risking the stakes after having learnt lessons from Sujanpur —where he lost the poll in 2017.

The Congress woes are plenty in Kangra and Shimla constituencies.

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