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Left debut hinges on Veerbhadra

Shimla, Feb. 25: The Left — a fringe element in the Himachal polity — hopes to open its account in the next Assembly. It could make its debut if Congress veteran Veerbhadra Singh’s men end up doing tomorrow what they are widely suspected of having done during campaigning that concluded on Monday.

The talk of the hill town, even in the local Congress circles, is that Sanjay Chauhan, the CPM candidate for the Shimla seat, enjoys the tacit support of Veerbhadra loyalists.

Chauhan’s nomination has provided the CPM with an edge over the Congress and the BJP. He is young and popular — attributes that make him a credible contender for the seat, which the BJP won narrowly in 1998. Both the Congress and the BJP have much larger “committed” votes here than the CPM. In the last elections, the CPM nominee lost his deposit, though the party had won in 1990 after a tie-up with the Janata Dal and the BJP.

The perceived operation of the Veerbhadra factor has gone a long way in strengthening Chauhan’s campaign for the Shimla seat. “Veerbhadra’s men have openly campaigned for Chauhan,” claimed Chaman Lal, a local businessman with interests in transport.

State Congress office-bearers admit that there has been such talk, but would not confirm the same.

Of course, it is no secret that Veerbhadra had stalled for a few days the finalisation of the party candidate list because the choice of Harbhajan Singh Bhajji for Shimla was unacceptable to him. He had relented to keep party spokesman Anand Sharma happy. Bhajji is the lone Anand candidate in this election.

But since then, Veerbhadra seems to have virtually dumped Bhajji in favour of the CPM’s Chauhan. “Whether Bhajji wins or Chauhan, it will matter little. After all, even Chauhan will surely support Veerbhadra in government formation,” said Ram Kashyap who identifies himself with the Congress and Veerbhadra.

While the CPM’s hopes of again representing Shimla hinge on Veerbhadra’s perceived sympathy for Chauhan, the CPI is going nowhere. Like the CPM, the CPI, too, had in the past represented the Kotkehloor seat in neighbouring Bilaspur district, again with generous support from the Janata Dal and the BJP.

The party has fielded Rattan Lal as its nominee in Kotkehloor this time. Ironically, one of Rattan’s rivals in the fray is none other than erstwhile CPI MLA from the constituency, Krishan Kumar Kaushal.

Perhaps ideology has little to do with the Left’s electoral politics in Himachal. Krishan, once a CPI cardholder, is in the fray as the nominee of Sukh Ram’s Himachal Vikas Congress. Krishan had contested in 1998 as the BJP’s official candidate and lost to the Congress by a narrow margin. For Rattan, the fight will be just a token one. Barring Chauhan, no Left candidate has hopes of even defending the security deposit.

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