Family first: Dynastic politics is here to stay in Himachal

Dynastic politics has now become an integral part of Himachal cutting across party divides and regional lines. Kin factor runs high in Congress, while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which was critical of dynastic politics, has also taken a U-turn of sorts and fielded dynasts and kin of its powerful leaders.

The saffron party has allotted tickets to Rajat Thakur from the Dharampur assembly segment held by his father Mahender Singh Thakur – a powerful minister in Jai Ram’s cabinet Mahender Singh has won six assembly elections from Dharampur in Mandi district. He was elected to the assembly for the first time in 1993, then in 1998, followed by 2003, 2007, 2012 and 2017. Thakur was elected to the assembly from five different parties.

However, the ticket to his son has created fissures in the family, which came out in the open when his daughter Vandana Guleria, who was active in politics, resigned from all the posts of the party. She was the general secretary of the state Mahila morcha. The party has fielded Anil Dhiman, son of former education minister Ishwar Dass Dhiman, who made it to the assembly for the first time after his father’s death. Dhiman has won the Bhoranj (SC) assembly seat by 8,290 votes.

His father Ishwar Dass Dhiman won six times in a row from till it fell vacant in 2016 after his death. Dhiman was denied a ticket last assembly elections, and BJP replaced him with women candidate Kamlesh Kumari.

The party has fielded Govind Singh Thakur from Manali. Thakur, a minister in the outgoing government, is the son of former minister Kunj Lal Thakur.

BJP also reposed faith in former telecom minister Sukhram’s son Anil Sharma from the Mandi Sadar seat. Anil’s relationship with BJP and chief minister Jai Ram Thakur was estranged after his son Aashray contested as a Congress candidate in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections which he lost to Ram Swaroop Sharma of the BJP. BJP compelled Anil to step down as a minister, but Anil has since then cosied up to CM getting a nod from BJP to contest from Mandi. His name’s announcement has led to a rebellion with Praveen Sharma. BJP has trusted Chetan Bragta from Jubbal-Kotkhai. The party has denied him a ticket after his father Narendra Bragta’s death in 2021. Congress Rohit Thakur trounced him with a margin of 6239 votes. BJP side-lined former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal due to his age but otherwise was more than happy to concede its high ground by giving tickets to sons and wives. The party changed the ticket of Indira Kapoor from Chamba and fielded Neelam Nayyar, wife of sitting MLA Pawan Nayyar, who was denied the ticket. The party has also fielded Maya Sharma, wife of former BJP MLA Baldev Sharma from Barsar.

In Congress, legacy politics has remained well-entrenched for a long. Congress stalwart six-time chief minister Virbhadra Singh’s son Vikramaditya Singh is contesting his second election from his father’s Shimla rural assembly segment. Rohit Thakur grandson of former chief minister Thakur Ram Lal has also entered the political arena from the Jubbal-Kotkhai segment.

In Kangra, Congress has fielded Ajay Mahajan from the Nurpur segment, son of former minister and veteran leader Sat Mahajan. Urban development minister Sudhir Sharma, son of former minister Pandit Sant Ram, is in the fray from Dharamshala. From Jaisinghpur, the Congress nominee is Yadvinder Goma, son of former three-term legislator Milkhi Ram Goma. In Chamba, Congress has nominated Asha Kumari (daughter-in-law of former MLA Devindra Kumari) and Surinder Bhardwaj (Churah), son of former minister Vidyadhar. In Sirmour, Congress nominee Harshwardhan Chauhan is the son of former minister Thakur Guman Singh and Vinay Kumar (Renuka), the son of seven-term legislator Dr Prem Singh, will contest.

In Solan, Vinod Sultanpuri, son of former six-time MP KD Sultanpuri, from Kasauli and Ram Kumar (Doon), son of former legislator Lajja Ram will fight in the elections.

BJP national spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia said ‘parivarvad’ was the Congress’ model while his party’s model was that of development.

Bhatia avoided a direct reply and instead said BJP has returned Himachal’s special status. “The Congress government had snatched the special status from Himachal on the other hand it was returned by PM Narendra Modi. He has a special attachment to Himachal as can be seen by his mannerisms, and policies of the central government,” Bhatia said when asked about the BJP’s U-turn on the ‘parivarvad’ in Himachal.

On the other hand, AICC in-charge of media affairs in Himachal Alka Lamba, lambasted the BJP. “BJP always remained critical of the Congress over dynastic politics, but this time it has taken a U-turn. There is a lot of difference between what they speak and what they do. Ticket distribution in Himachal has exposed the double face of the BJP, she said.

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