Congress, BJP go hammer and tongs at each other in Himachal

Congress, BJP go hammer and tongs at each other in Himachal

Dhumals son wants to retain hold on the constituency

Political observers are forecasting a 2-2 split verdict for the two parties.

When the people of the hill state go to cast their vote on Wednesday, five-time former chief minister and Congress leader, 75-year old Virbhadra Singh will be hoping to make a comeback to political mainstream after the party lost the 2007 assembly polls under his stewardship. Referred to as ‘raja’ due to his royal leanings, Virbhadra Singh has an edge over two-time former BJP MP, Maheshwar Singh, another royal in the fray.

The septuagenarian Singh’s enthusiasm for electoral battle has not waned as he campaigned diligently in a vast constituency spread over difficult hilly terrain constituting almost one-third of the geographic area of the State. Though he was elected MP on four occasions with his inaugural victory coming at the age of 26 in 1962, Singh has pitched himself in the parliamentary fray after 29 years.

“It was the party’s requirement”, Singh says about his electoral plunge from the constituency his wife, Pratibha Singh had won in 2004. Singh has sought support from Sukh Ram, former Union Minister, who has been indicted by a court in the telecom scam. Ram has a strong base in Mandi. Though he has himself not been active in campaign, his son, Anil Sharma has been campaigning for Singh. While Congress leader Rahul Gandhi campaigned for Singh on the last day of campaigning, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi addressed rallies for the BJP nominee. Sonia Gandhi had earlier visited Shimla to launch the Congress campaign in the State.

Targeting corruption

The Congress campaign has targeted the BJP for alleged corruption of its ministers. The BJP has been highlighting the “step- motherly and discriminatory treatment” at the hands of the Congress-led UPA government besides touching on the national issues relating to terrorism and price rise.

Singh is targeting Chief Minister Dhumal in his campaign charging him with corruption and promoting his family. “His son is an MP and son’s father-in-law is a minister in his cabinet. It is a Pita, Putra, Papa Limited company”, he tells his audiences.

Anurag Thakur, the 33-year old son of Chief Minister Dhumal, will be hoping to repeat his winning feat of last year’s by-election when he won the Hamirpur seat by a margin of over one lakh votes.

T20 cricket

A cricket enthusiast, who has announced to start a Himachal Premier League (HPL) to promote T20 cricket in the State Anurag is confident that he would win because of his “leadership qualities” and “honest work” done for the people. But Dhumal is taking no chances in the high-stake constituency and has put his heart and soul into his son’s election campaign.

Thakur’s Congress rival, Narender Thakur is a BJP rebel and is seeking vote on the legacy of his well-respected late father, Thakur Jagdev Chand, a prominent BJP leader of the State. Congress chose Thakur after its initial choice, cricketer Madan Lal, faced heavy revolt from the party’s district unit.

From the Shimla constituency, a traditional Congress bastion, the ruling BJP is hoping to wrest the seat for the first time in the State’s electoral history.

The BJP nominee, Virendra Kashyap, who, ironically has never won an election in his life despite having contested nine parliamentary and Assembly polls, is expected to turn the tide in his favour against Congress rival, Dhani Ram Shandil.

The fact that BJP MLAs were elected from nine of the 17 assemblys segments of the parliamentaryy constituency is favouring the BJP nominee.

From Kangra, the BJP’s traditional stronghold, the fight between the sitting Congress MP, Chander Kumar who had defeated BJP stalwart and former chief minister, Shanta Kumar, in the last elections, and BJP first timer, Rajan Sushant is said to be very close. Kumar is banking on the support of over 25 percent OBC voters in the constituency to sail through.

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