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Congress fields Ram Lal Thakur from Hamirpur

The Congress had already cleared nominees for three seats of Kangra, Mandi and Shimla (reserved), but took much time for Hamirpur Lok Sabha seat in view of the diverse opinions in the party.

Archana Phull | Shimla |

After much discussion, the Congress party on Saturday declared former minister and MLA Ram Lal Thakur as its candidate from Hamirpur Lok Sabha seat.

Thakur, five times MLA from Sri Naina Devi Assembly segment in Bilaspur, is pitted against three-time BJP MP in a row, Anurag Thakur. Anurag, son of former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal, is from Hamirpur district.

The Congress had already cleared nominees for three seats of Kangra, Mandi and Shimla (reserved), but took much time for Hamirpur Lok Sabha seat in view of the diverse opinions in the party. Congress sources said while the camp headed by former Congress CM, Virbhadra Singh, and leader of opposition, Mukesh Agnihotri was pushing for the candidature of Abhishek Rana, son of Congress MLA from Sujanpur Rajinder Rana (who defeated former BJP CM Prem Kumar Dhumal), former PCC chief, Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu and other MLAs opposed him.

Sources said there was opposition to the entry of former BJP MP Suresh Chandel following which his name was dropped from the list of frontrunners.  Chandel was elected as an MP on a BJP ticket in 1998, 1999 and 2004, but was later unseated for alleged “cash for query” scam, that necessitated 2007 Lok Sabha by-poll.

Congress insiders said although Sukhu’s name also figured in between as party nominee, though despite his yes for the contest, the Congress did not declare it. Later, there was a consensus among party MLAs in the Hamirpur Parliamentary constituency on the name of Ram Lal Thakur.

Ram Lal Thakur, 67, was first elected as an MLA in 1985 and has been a minister in Himachal government thrice. The Congress leader was earlier pushed into Lok Sabha contest in Hamirpur Parliamentary constituency in 2004, and then in 2007 Lok Sabha by-poll.

In 2004, he lost to BJP’s Suresh Chandel by a slender margin of over 1600 votes and in 2007 by-poll he lost to former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal by a margin of around 80,000 votes.

“I am ready to contest.  Anurag Thakur is three times MP and is facing anti-incumbency. Moreover, his father is not a chief minister now. So he will have to fight elections purely on issues now,” Ram Lal Thakur said.

“The false promises of Modi government and other issues like demonetisation, lack of policy for the farmers will also work against him,” he said, adding that he will start his campaign on 8 April.

Sitting BJP MP Anurag Thakur has already covered much ground in Hamirpur Parliamentary constituency. Hamirpur Lok Sabha seat has been continuously won by BJP since 1998.