Including CM Virbhadra’s son Vikramaditya, Congress has fielded eight second- or third-generation politicians, while the BJP has given tickets to three.
Dynasty politics is a fact of life for Indian democracy. But in some states such as Himachal Pradesh, it is a more common phenomenon than elsewhere.
The Congress is often blamed for failing to break out of the dynastic mindset, but the BJP’s hands aren’t clean either, as evidenced by the candidates’ lists announced by the two main parties for the 9 November assembly elections.
One family, more than one ticket
In some recent assembly elections, most notably in Punjab, the Congress had introduced a ‘one family, one ticket’ rule. But in Himachal, the rule seems to have been done away with.
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh is fighting the elections from a new seat, Arki, while his 28-year-old son Vikramaditya will make his electoral debut from the CM’s old seat, Shimla Rural. After the official announcement of his candidature Sunday, Vikramaditya is now gearing up to fight his father’s former loyalist Pramod Sharma, who has a BJP ticket.
The Singh family is not the only one enjoying multiple tickets. Health minister Kaul Singh Thakur is fighting from his pocket borough of Darang, but has also managed to procure a ticket for his daughter Champa from Mandi. Champa’s is an interesting case – she is the chairperson of the Mandi zila parishad, but had already filed her nomination for the assembly polls on Saturday as an independent candidate.
Champa is pitted against another dynast – former Union minister Sukh Ram’s son Anil Sharma, who recently left the Congress after three terms as an MLA to join the BJP.
Sons of famous Congress fathers
In Palampur, the Congress has acceded to the wishes of five-time MLA and outgoing Speaker Brij Behari Lal Butail, who did not want to contest. Instead, his son Ashish Butail will fight the election. Brij Behari had fought every assembly poll in Palampur since 1985, after taking over from brother Kunj Behari, a rich tea grower, who had won the seat twice.
On the Banjar seat, the Congress has fielded Aditya Vikram Singh, son of three-time MLA Karan Singh. A member of the Kullu royal family, Karan Singh, a cabinet minister, died in May this year. Karan Singh’s elder brother Maheshwar Singh, a BJP legislator contesting from Kullu this time, was Banjar MLA twice. Karan Singh too had won the seat twice for the BJP, but left the party after the BJP found a new candidate. He joined the Congress and won the seat in 2012.
It isn’t just young dynasts who are in the fray. The Congress candidate from Dharamsala is 45-year-old Sudhir Sharma, son of old warhorse Sant Ram, who had won the Baijnath seat six times since 1972. When Sant Ram died in 1998, the then-26-year-old Sudhir contested the bypoll but lost. But he went on to win the seat twice. After delimitation, Baijnath became a reserved seat, and Sudhir shifted to Dharamsala and won.
In Shillai, Harshvardhan Chauhan, 53, is trying to become a five-time MLA. He is the son of Guman Singh Chauhan, who had won it four times since 1972. Harshvardhan had lost the 2012 assembly poll to the BJP’s Baldev Singh Tomar, but is trying to beat him this time.
In Nurpur, Kangra, the Congress candidate is 59-year-old Ajay Mahajan. His father, the late Sat Mahajan, was a five-time MLA from Nurpur, and held many portfolios in the Himachal Pradesh government.
Rohit Thakur, the Congress candidate from Jubbal-Kotkhai, is the grandson of former chief minister Thakur Ram Lal. It won’t be a stretch to call the seat the Thakur family’s borough – Ram Lal won his first election in 1957 and went on to represent the constituency nine times, including in 1990, when he beat Virbhadra Singh as a Janata Dal candidate. Rohit, now 43, has been an MLA twice from the seat.
BJP not far behind
In addition to Sukh Ram’s son Anil Sharma, there are a few BJP candidates in the dynast category too.
Manali is an example. The BJP’s sitting MLA is 49-year-old Gobind Singh Thakur, son of Kunj Lal, who was a minister in Shanta Kumar’s BJP government. Thakur himself first became an MLA in 2007 from Kullu, his family’s stronghold, before shifting to Manali in 2012.
Another BJP dynast in fray is 59-year-old Narendra Thakur, who is fighting from Hamirpur. He is the son of late BJP leader Jagdev Chand, who was a five-time MLA from the seat. Thakur fought the 2012 polls as the Congress candidate from Hamirpur, but ended up losing to former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal.