Ex-CM Dhumal on BJP final list for HP polls

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Despite any reservations arising from the pending corruption CBI and ED cases against Singh, the move, a leader says, "is evident acknowledgement of the fact that Virbhadra Singh is still the tallest and most popular leader in the Congress".

Prem Kumar Dhumal, two-time chief minister and current leader of the opposition is contesting from a new seat, Sujanpur. BJP leader Pramod Sharma will contest from Shimla Rural which is now held by Virbhadra Singh.

Both Dhumal and Singh are Thakurs and this could have been a reason for the BJP giving prominence to the former chief minister in this election.

The list was finalised after a marathon meeting of the Congress central election committee chaired by party president Sonia Gandhi. Dhumal had won by only 9,500 votes from Hamirpur in 2012.

Though the initial list of candidates didn't figure the name of Singh's son Vikramaditya Singh for whome he had vacated his constituency, Shimla (Rural). If the Congress wins, it would be his seventh term as the chief minister. The party has fielded turncoat Anil Sharma, son of former Union Minister Sukh Ram, from Mandi.

BJP has fielded Rakesh Verma, the son of former top cop of Himachal Pradesh and chairman of HP Public Service Commission, R R Verma which Singh had close personal and family relations. On the other hand, Sujanpur is a Congress stronghold seat and political experts believe that a prominent face like Prem Kumar Dhumal can help the BJP winning the Congress bastion in Himachal Pradesh. The last date of filing nominations is October 23 and the polling is on November 9.

Virbhadra Singh has been fielded by the Congress from Arki while state party chief Sukhhu from Nadaun and former state party chief Viplova Thakur, a Rajya Sabha member, from Dehra. Congress will be announcing the official list at the earliest.

The Congress released its first list of 59 candidates for the Himachal Pradesh polls in which Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh will fight from a new constituency Arki instead of Shimla Rural, from where he had won in 2012.