Virb­hadra meets Rahul Gandhi in Delhi; Sukhu be­gins ticket process in Shimla

Hindustan Times (Bathinda) - - REGION - Gau­rav Bisht gau­rav.bisht@hin­dus­tan­times.com

SHIMLA Hi­machal Pradesh chief min­is­ter (CM) Virb­hadra Singh met All In­dia Congress Com­mit­tee (AICC) vice-pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi amid Congress high com­mand’s ef­forts to mol­lify the oc­to­ge­nar­ian leader seek­ing a free hand in ticket dis­tri­bu­tion in Hi­machal.

The party has even re­fused to re­lent to his main de­mand to re­move state Congress pres­i­dent Sukhvin­der Singh Sukhu, who ini­ti­ated the process for ticket on Fri­day.

Virb­hadra, who was ac­com­pa­nied by AICC gen­eral sec­re­tary in-charge Shushil Ku­mar Shinde and his deputy, AICC sec­re­tary Ran­jeet Ran­jan, ap­prised party high com­mand about his reser­va­tion against the party.

The meet­ing lasted nearly one hour. Later in the evening, Shinde and Ran­jan had an­other round of meet­ing with the CM at a guest house in Delhi. The two lead­ers are likely to ap­prise Rahul Gandhi on the ne­go­ti­a­tions with Virb­hadra.

The CM, who has re­peat­edly in­sisted party high com­mand to re­move Sukhu, is also up­set with the party’s firm­ness on ‘one fam­ily one ticket’ for­mula that it im­plied in the Pun­jab as­sem­bly elec­tions.

He even pro­jected state youth Congress pres­i­dent and ghis son Vikra­ma­ditya Singh as a can­di­date from his Shimla ru­ral as­sem­bly seg­ment three days ago, while keep­ing his op­tion of con­test­ing elec­tion openly. Sources said that party may re­lax con­di­tions for Virb­hadra and his son Vikra­ma­ditya.

More­over, the chief min­is­ter is also no­tice­ably an­noyed with the party for not de­fend­ing him dur­ing re­peated at­tacks from op­po­si­tion par­ties for tar­get­ing him over cor­rup­tion cases.

He also seeks a lion’s share in ticket dis­tri­bu­tion and is keen to get tick­ets for lead­ers ow­ing al­le­giance to him and his son Vikra­ma­ditya, who made ef­forts to in­crease his clout in the state.

Mean­while, state party chief Sukhvin­der Singh Sukhu ini­ti­ated process for tick­ets in the Congress on Fri­day. This is for first time that those as­pir­ing for a ticket will have to shell out Rs 25,000 while ap­ply­ing.

Sukhu, who re­turned to state cap­i­tal af­ter a three-day long path ya­tra along with Shinde, re­leased per­forma for ap­pli­cants. The fees is less for can­di­dates seek­ing tick­ets from as­sem­bly con­stituen­cies re­served for sched­uled caste and sched­ule tribe and they will have to pay Rs 15,000.

How­ever, those fall­ing in the BPL (be­low poverty line) cat­e­gory, will not have to pay any­thing. Thep­er­for­maseeks­de­tails on per­for­mance in the party, in­come of fam­ily mem­bers and also crim­i­nal records, if any.

“We are only seek­ing in­for­ma­tion (about crim­i­nal cases) and the de­ci­sion will be taken by the party high com­mand,” he said.

Even as bick­er­ing be­tween the two lead­ers reached a crescendo, Sukhu said on Fri­day that Virb­hadra will head the com­mit­tee over­see­ing the poll cam­paign and he him­self will over­see poll prepa­ra­tions. “I would lead the party and the CM as the head of the state gov­ern­ment will lead the cam­paign for elec­tions. We have done an in­ter­nal sur­vey that projects vic­tory for the Congress,” said Sukhu.

“There were a lot of spec­u­la­tions that leads from the party will join the BJP but noth­ing of that sort has hap­pened so far,” he added, ac­cus­ing the BJP of fail­ing to play a healthy op­po­si­tion. “They just tried to play the role of for­tune tell­ers,” he said.

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