Congress leader and six-time Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh Virbhadra Singh on Friday filed his nomination papers from Arki assembly constituency -- a new seat that he chose himself -- for the November 9 assembly elections.
Accompanied by his wife Pratibha Singh, a former Member of Parliament, and son Vikramaditya Singh -- who is planning to make his electoral debut from Shimla (Rural) seat this assembly polls, Virbhadra Singh said he himself decided to contest from the seat which the Congress had not been able to win for quite some time.
Party leaders said in fact, Virbhadra Singh, 83, had vacated the Shimla (Rural) seat for his son Vikramaditya Singh and shifted to Arki in Solan district.
Earlier, he announced to contest from Theog in Shimla district, the seat which was won in the 2012 assembly elections by Congress veteran Vidya Stokes, 89.
"After Virbhadra Singh decided to contest from Arki and the party high command allotted him the ticket from there, Stokes again expressed her desire to contest from Theog," a senior party leader told IANS.
The Congress on Wednesday announced its first list of 59 of the 68 candidates. It is still silent on the names of candidates for the remaining nine seats, including Theog and Shimla (Rural).
"The Congress will again form the government as we are in the fray on the plank of development," a seemingly confident Chief Minister told reporters after filing his nomination.
Virbhadra Singh, who has been declared the Congress chief ministerial candidate, is pitted against the BJP's greenhorn Ratan Singh Pal.
For this seat, the BJP ignored sitting legislator Govind Ram and allotted the ticket to Pal.
Another Congress leader and Cabinet minister Dhani Ram Shandil filed his nomination papers from Solan (reserved).
Interestingly, the BJP has fielded Shandil's doctor-turned-politician son-in-law Rajesh Kashyap.
The other prominent candidates who filed papers include the BJP's former Cabinet ministers Jairam Thakur from Seraj, Gulab Singh from Jogindernagar, Ravinder Ravi from Dehra and Maheshwar Singh from Kullu.
The Congress' sitting Cabinet minister Sujan Singh Pathania filed papers from Fatehpur and its sitting legislator Kuldeep Kumar from Chintpurni.
Jairam Thakur has represented Seraj for four consecutive terms and is trying his luck for the fifth time, while Gulab Singh and Ravi were the most powerful men in the previous Prem Kumar Dhumal government.
BJP's Dhumal has swapped his present Hamirpur seat, the pocket borough of the BJP, with party legislator Narendra Thakur, who will be the party candidate from the seat.
The contest from Sujanpur seems interesting this time as the Congress has fielded Rajinder Rana, who knows the Dhumal family inside out. This would help the Congress give a befitting reply to the BJP.
Rana in 2012 won the assembly elections from this seat as an Independent and later joined the Congress. However, ahead of the 2014 general election, he vacated the seat and contested the Lok Sabha election from Hamirpur.
He was routed by the BJP's Anurag Thakur, the son of Dhumal.
In the 2012 elections to the 68-member assembly, which saw a voter turnout of 73.92 per cent, the Congress won 36 seats, BJP 26 and Independents six.
The BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections had won all the four seats with a vote percentage of 53.85 per cent. At that time, the Congress, which was at the helm in the state, got 41.07 per cent votes.