Ex Himachal Minister Quits BJP After Party Gives Ticket To Congress Rebel

Ram Lal Markanda was a frontrunner for the BJP ticket from Lahaul and Spiti. (File)

Shimla:

Former Himachal Pradesh minister and BJP leader from Lahaul and Spiti assembly constituency, Ram Lal Markanda, on Tuesday quit the party to protest the fielding of Congress rebel Ravi Thakur who had defeated him on the seat in the last assembly election.

Hours after the BJP announced assembly tickets to all the six former Congress MLAs disqualified from the House, Ram Lal Markanda quit the party and announced that he will contest the bypoll from Lahaul and Spiti, possibly as a Congress candidate.

All office-bearers of the BJP’s Lahaul and Spiti block unit also resigned against the party’s decision and pledged support to Ram Lal Markanda, saying they will support him in the byelection.

Ram Lal Markanda was the agriculture and tribal development minister during the previous BJP government led by Jai Ram Thakur. He had lost the 2022 assembly elections to Ravi Thakur, who was then in the Congress, by a margin of 1542 votes.

Ram Lal Markanda was a frontrunner for the BJP ticket from Lahaul and Spiti. He resigned from the BJP after Congress rebel Ravi Thakur was named in the BJP list for assembly bypoll from the assembly constituency.

The Himachal Pradesh Assembly bypolls will be held on June 1, along with the election to the four Lok Sabha seats in the state — Hamirpur, Shimla, Mandi and Kangra.

“I have left the BJP today along with my supporters and would definitely contest the assembly polls,” he told PTI over the phone.

A meeting of Lahaul and Spiti core committee has been convened tonight to chalk out the future strategy, Ram Lal Markanda said.

It is unfortunate that the BJP is taking such people who are against reservation and had hurled abuses against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the past, he said.

“I will contest the assembly bypolls for sure. There is a possibility of my contesting from the Congress party,” he said.

“My people want me to contest elections for the development of Lahaul and Spiti,” he said.

Talking to PTI, BJP leader and former rural development and panchayati raj minister Virender Kanwar has also expressed his displeasure over the party picking Congress rebel Devinder Kumar Bhutto, a first-time MLA from Kutlehar, in his place.

“The party is above everything but the people of my constituency are disappointed and want that the decision of the party should be reviewed by conducting a fresh survey on popularity in the area. Bhutto worked like a dictator in the past 15 months and has lost the goodwill of the people,” he added.

Meanwhile, Ranjit Singh of the BJP, who lost to Rajendra Rana of the Congress in the 2022 assembly polls by a margin of 399 votes, has also announced to contest as an Independent candidate.

He said, “In the Lok Sabha elections, I will support BJP candidate Union Minister Anurag Singh Thakur but in the byelections, I will contest as an Independent candidate.” Talking to media persons here, Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu also said some BJP leaders including Ram Lal Markanda and BJP leader from Gagret, Rakesh Kalia, are in contact with the Congress.

Both Ram Lal Markanda and Kalia had lost the 2022 assembly elections.

The BJP on Tuesday named its candidates for the assembly bypolls in several states and fielded the six MLAs from the seats they held as Congress members before their disqualification.

Thakur is a two-time legislator and was the chairman of state Congress Seva Dal and vice chairperson of National Commission for Scheduled Tribes.

Besides Ravi Thakur from Lahaul and Spiti, the BJP nominated Sudhir Sharma from Dharamshala, Rajinder Rana from Sujanpur, Inder Dutt Lakhanpal from Barsar, Chetanya Sharma from Gagret and Devinder Kumar Bhutto from Kutlehar.

All the six Congress dissidents switched over to the BJP on March 23, nearly a month after being disqualified from the Himachal Pradesh Assembly for defying a party whip to be present in the House and vote in favour of the government during the cut motions and the budget.

These six MLAs and three Independents had voted in favour of BJP nominee Harsh Mahajan in the Rajya Sabha elections held in the state on February 27, triggering a crisis for the Congress-led government in the state.

With the disqualification of the six Congress MLAs, the strength of the ruling party has come down from 40 to 34, including the Speaker who can vote only in the case of a tie during a floor test, in the 68-member assembly. The BJP has 25 members in the House. 

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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