Former Dhumal proteges lock horns in Himachal assembly bypoll for Sujanpur - Hindustan Times
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Former Dhumal proteges lock horns in Himachal assembly bypoll for Sujanpur

By, Sujanpur
May 16, 2024 10:54 PM IST

The Himachal assembly bypoll for Sujanpur will have two former proteges of BJP stalwart and former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal — Rajinder Rana and Captain Ranjit Singh Rana (retd) — lock horns

The rebellion faced by the Congress-led state government earlier this year catalysed a seismic shift in Himachal’s political landscape.

Both leaders have switched allegiances amid the recent political upheaval in Himachal. (HT File)
Both leaders have switched allegiances amid the recent political upheaval in Himachal. (HT File)

An interesting contest is brewing for the assembly bypoll in Sujanpur, a part of the Hamirpur parliamentary constituency. The seat will have two former proteges of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stalwart and former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal — Rajinder Rana and Captain Ranjit Singh Rana (retd) — lock horns.

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Both leaders have switched allegiances amid the recent political upheaval in the state. Rajinder Rana was among the six Congress legislators who rebelled against the party and voted for the BJP candidate during February Rajya Sabha polls. He had won the 2022 assembly election on a Congress ticket, but is contesting the bypolls on a BJP ticket.

Irked by BJP fielding a turncoat, Ranjit Singh Rana, who had lost to Ranjinder in the 2022 while contesting as the saffron party’s candidate, switched sides to the Congress.

In essence, the players are the same as the 2022 assembly elections, but they are now contesting from opposite sides.

Rajinder Rana after joining the BJP in March met his political mentor, Dhumal, after a gap of 12 years. The two had fallen out within the lead-up to the 2012 assembly elections after BJP denied Rajinder a ticket. He contested as an independent and defeated the BJP candidate. After winning the elections, he extended his support to the Congress-led government. Another pivotal moment came in the 2017 elections, when BJP pitched Dhumal, also the party’s chief ministerial face, against Rana from Sujanpur.

Rana defeated the BJP stalwart, who had been shifted from his home constituency Hamirpur by a margin of 1,919 votes. The win catapulted him to stardom in political circles.

While the Congress is banking on public annoyance over Rajinder Rana switching sides, ground reports suggest that the leader has a strong support base in the constituency. “He has a good public connection here and has a support base across party lines. Some villages are supporting him fully,” a shopkeeper in Sujanpur said.

Ranjit Rana, meanwhile, is no greenhorn. He had given Ranjinder Rana a run for his money in the 2022 assembly elections, losing by a mere 399 votes.

Meanwhile, Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee chief spokesperson Prem Kaushal said they are hopeful of Ranjinder Rana’s party hopping turns the tide in their favour. “He was in the BJP and backstabbed Prem Kumar Dhumal and joined the Congress. He contested the Lok Sabha election in 2014 as a Congress candidate and the party gave him respectful space over the years. The public is annoyed over his fluctuating nature. We are also vigorously campaigning in Hamirpur including Sujanpur,” he said.

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