Virbhadra loyalists grab Cong tickets
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The Congress on Monday declared names of all 68 candidates for the November 4 Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh, renominating 21 out of its 23 sitting MLAs and bringing in 22 new faces.
While delimitation of constituencies seems to have influenced the choice of some candidates, nearly a dozen relatives of former Congress leaders have also been accommodated. Four women and as many persons from royal background have found place in the list.
Sitting MP and state party chief Virbhadra Singh has been shifted to the newly created Shimla (Rural) constituency since his traditional Rohru seat has been reserved for Scheduled Caste. The leader of opposition, Vidya Stokes, who had shifted to Kumarsein in 2003 and 2007, has reverted to her Theog constituency, which she represented four times, as Kumarsein has been scrapped.
Sitting MLAs Yograj from Pragpur and Sohan Lal from Kusumpti have not been given tickets as their constituencies were dereserved, but Sudhir Sharma and Rakesh Kalia, whose Baijnath and Chintpurni seats were reserved for SCs, have been fielded from Dharamsala and Gagret.
Former minister Kuldeep Kumar, whose Gagret reserved seat has been dereserved, has been shifted to Chintpurni.
Major (retd) Vijai Singh Mankotia is contesting from Shahpur. Mankotia returned to the Congress only a few days ago after sorting out differences with Virbhadra Singh. Mankotia, a former minister, had released an audio CD in 2007 accusing Virbhadra of corruption, which led to his ouster. His return is expected to boost the party's prospects in Kangra belt in lower Himachal.
Among other prominent faces, former state chief Kaul Singh Thakur will contest from Drang seat and CWC member Dhani Ram Shandil from Solan.
The list, cleared by the Congress Election Committee headed by party chief Sonia Gandhi, is dominated by Virbhadra loyalists, who have cornered nearly 50 tickets.
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