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Jolt to BJP in HP, 3-time former MP joins Cong

Jolt to BJP in HP, 3-time former MP joins Cong

Shimla: In a major jolt to the ruling BJP, three-time BJP MP from Hamirpur Suresh Chandel on Monday joined the Congress.

His decision to join the Congress despite having been denied the ticket to contest against Anurag Thakur, also a third-time MP has surprised many in the BJP circle.

His presence in the Congress campaign will be the biggest selling point for the party in its campaign, not alone Hamirpur but also across the state.

Former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal was first to react. " Anyone leaving the party, especially such juncture is a loss to the party family," he said. He joined the Congress in presence of Rahul Gandhi, Himachal Congress president Kuldeep Rathore, leader of opposition Mukesh Agnihotri and All India Congress Committee (AICC) in-charge Rajni Patil. Chandel was in constant touch with senior AICC leaders as had spurned the efforts made by Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur to stay put in the BJP. The Congress has given the ticket to Ram Lal Thakur, a sitting MLA. Chandel will join his campaign on April 25 when Thakur files nomination.

"Chandel is our prize cash. It's a huge blow to the BJP. Our doors are open to all those BJP leaders, who are willing to join us and support the party to win all four seats," said PCC president Kuldeep Rathore.

Asked about his role, Rathore said the party has assured him that he will be given due place in the organisation keeping in view stature, seniority and political relevance.

Hailing from Bilaspur town, Chandel had been BJP's state president and had held several key positions in the party including its organising secretary in 1990-91. Chandel was one of 11 MPs, 10 from the Lok Sabha, who was accused in the 'Cash-for-question' sting operation in 2005 and lost his membership of the Lok Sabha.

He terms the episode as 'tragedy of his life". " I have paid a very heavy price for it. Yet, I have decided to move putting a bad chapter of my political career behind," he says.

Back in the party's folds in 2006-2007, Chandel was given a ticket for state assembly in 2012, which he lost and this time, was not considered for the state assembly polls.

Knowing that the BJP will re-field Anurag Thakur in Hamirpur, Chandel lobbied in the Congress. It was at the last minute that the party ticket was given to Ram Lal Thakur leaving Chandel high and dry.

"Today, I told Rahul Gandhi that ticket was never his priority though it's fact that I wanted to fight Hamirpur Lok Sabha poll - a constituency I had won three times. Nevertheless, I will work for the Congress whole heartily," he told the Millennium Post.

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