Himachal polls: BJP's tainted ex-MP in fray again

Vishal Gulati

Shimla, Oct 28 (IANS) He went into hibernation for seven years after the cash-for-query scandal in parliament surfaced. But he's out in the field again as a BJP candidate for the Nov 4 Himachal Pradesh assembly polls, notwithstanding the strong public sentiments against corruption.

The saffron party has decided to field Suresh Chandel, who was caught in a sting operation in the 2005 when he was an MP from Hamirpur, from Bilaspur, the seat vacated by J.P. Nadda after becoming a Rajya Sabha member in 2011.

"It's now a thing of the past. The people know who is more corrupt," Chandel told IANS.

Eleven MPs, including Chandel, were expelled from parliament Dec 23, 2005, for accepting money to raise questions in the house.

Chandel is now up against the Congress' young and energetic Bamber Thakur, who had lost the 2007 assembly election to Nadda by a huge margin.

The seat was earlier represented by the Congress' Tilak Raj, who had defeated Nadda by a slender margin.

This time, the presence of two Congress rebels - K.D. Lakhanpal, a retired officer, and Jitender Chandel, a former zila parishad member - can damage Thakur's prospects. The two are contesting as independents.

The Congress hopes the fielding of the tainted ex-MP will not go down well with the voters.

Political observers believe Chandel's down-to-earth maneuvring makes him quite a hit with the masses. He has been quite active in the constituency for more than two years.

The topic of corruption is on the backburner and the voters are more concerned about local issues.

An analysis carried out by NGO National Election Watch on the basis of details of the candidates shows that Thakur's assets in 2012 went up by a whopping 7,463 percent from the 2007 assembly polls, the highest increase among the 459 candidates in the fray.

It says his assets in 2007 were just Rs.1,35,000, which rose to Rs.1,00,75,000 in 2012.

Chandel's assets are worth Rs.1,66,16,355, according to his latest affidavit.

Polling for the 68 assembly seats in Himachal Pradesh will be held Nov 4. The votes will be counted Dec 20, after the Gujarat assembly polls are over.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)