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BJP axes tickets of 4 sitting MLAs, fields 12 new faces in Himachal

Archana Phull | Shimla |

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has axed the tickets of four sitting MLAs and has fielded a dozen new faces in 68 Assembly segments in Himachal Pradesh for ensuing polls.

The party has dropped MLAs Govind Ram (Arki), BK Chauhan (Chamba), Anil Dhiman (Bhoranj) and former Deputy Speaker, Rikhi Ram Kaundal (Jhanduta) and has fielded three candidates, who have switched over from Congress party, including Anil Sharma, who was minister in present Virbhadra government.

The party has fielded six women candidates, including five new faces and a sitting MLA, Sarveen Chaudhary.

The BJP has accommodated a doctor from Indira Gandhi Medical College, Shimla and a former IAS officer on two seats (Solan and Jhanduta), both reserved.

Former Bharatiya Janata Party chief minister, Prem Kumar Dhumal has changed his constituency and is now contesting from Sujanpur Assembly segments instead of Hamirpur.

The BJP list, which was ​finalised after a marathon round of meetings in Delhi over last four days, was released on Wednesday evening only after Union Health minister, JP Nadda ​took flight to Himachal Pradesh and tried to placate former Chief Ministers, Shanta Kumar in Palampur and Prem Kumar Dhumal in Samirpur earlier in the day.

Shanta Kumar, it is learnt, is unhappy over ticket to Indu Goswami in his home constituency Palampur against the claim of his loyalist, former MLA, Praveen Sharma.

Sources said Shanta, who had to struggle even for tickets to some of his other loyalists in biggest Kangra district, is said to have conveyed his annoyance and loss of interest in politics to the Union minister.

Goswami is state president of  ​BJP Mahila Morcha in Himachal and is perceived to be close to Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

BJP insiders said Dhumal was upset as sitting MLA Anil Dhiman (who was recently elected in a by-poll after death of his father, former BJP minister, ID Dhiman) was not given ticket from Bhoranj in ​Dhumal’s home district ​Hamirpur and the party chose to field a new candidate, Kamlesh Kumari.

Confirming that Nadda met Shanta and Dhumal during the day, state BJP chief, Satpal Singh Satti told The Statesman that BJP is on strong footing in Himachal and is eyeing more than 50 seats in the ensuing Assembly elections.

BJP insiders said the state leaders were consulted in the party meetings over tickets, but the BJP high command has dominated the exercise that has ruffled the feelings of senior leaders and has gone by its own choices in many constituencies.