The Congress late Friday declared former Union minister Sukh Ram’s grandson Aashray Sharma and Solan MLA Dhani Ram Shandil as party candidates from Himachal Pradesh’s Mandi and Shimla (SC) Lok Sabha seats, respectively.
Sukh Ram, along with Aashray, and son Anil Sharma who is currently the Multi-Purpose Projects and Power Minister in the Jai Ram Thakur government, had defected to the BJP ahead of the 2017 Assembly polls.
For the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, Sukh Ram was in talks with the BJP to get ticket for Aashray from Mandi seat. However, BJP retained its Mandi MP Ramswaroop Sharma for the seat, after which Sukh Ram and Aashray, who were already in talks with the Congress, rejoined the party Monday. The had returned to the Congress after being assured of Aashray’s candidature from Mandi.
Prior to joining the BJP in October 2017, Aashray was secretary in the Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee. While this will be his first time contesting an election, he will benefit from the immense clout that Sukh Ram, a former Lok Sabha MP who was minister of state for communication in the P V Narasimha Rao government, wields in the Mandi constituency.
Shimla (SC) seat candidate Shandil had won the 1999 Lok Sabha polls from the seat as a candidate of the Himachal Vikas Congress (HVC), which was a regional party formed by Sukh Ram. The party was later dissolved. Shandil had retained the seat in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls as a Congress candidate.
Between 2012-2017, he was the social justice and empowerment minister in the previous Congress government in the state.
In the general election, Shandil will be contesting against BJP’s Suresh Kashyap, who had won the 2017 Assembly polls from the Pachhad (SC) seat. Solan and Pachhad, both, fall under Shimla Lok Sabha seat.
The Congress is yet to declare its candidates for the remaining two Lok Sabha seats in the state.
Speaking to The Indian Express, party in-charge for Himachal Pradesh, Rajani Patil, said, “The candidates for the Kangra and Hamirpur seats will be declared next week.”
It is being speculated that three-time BJP MP from Hamirpur, Suresh Chandel, might join the Congress and contest the upcoming polls from the Hamirpur seat. However, sources in the party said that former state party chief Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, the MLA from Nadaun seat, is also among the contenders for the Hamirpur seat.
Among others in the Congress in fray for candidature from the Kangra seat are Kangra MLA Pawan Kumar Kajal, senior leaders and former state ministers G S Bali and Sudhir Sharma.