statesman news service
SHIMLA, 19 JUNE: With the campaign set to end with sundown on 21 June for the by-poll of the Mandi Lok Sabha seat (polling on 23 June), both the ruling Congress and the BJP leaders are making desperate, last attempts to woo voters.
It has become a no-holds-barred fight in which personal allegations and counter-attacks have become the norm.
Even an “obscene CD” allegedly showing an old Congress leader from Mandi in a “compromising position” with a woman has come into circulation ~ CDs damaging reputations of leaders have been traditionally surfacing in Himachal Pradesh during the election campaigns in recent times.
The ruling Congress party has acted swiftly on the matter and ensured that the state CID wing raided and seized a computer hard disc and a laptop from a Mandi hotel owned by a RTI activist, also contending as an independent candidate. “We have some clues about the people behind the distribution of such CDs,” police said. An FIR has been lodged in the case. Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, whose wife Mrs Pratibha Singh is the Congress candidate, is the main focus of the Opposition’s attack. The BJP leaders have been ridiculing Mr Singh&’s habit of closing his eyes for a short snooze during meetings by terming it as “the government that sleeps”, and inviting the CM’s retort: “I have enough experience to run the government even with my eyes closed.” Former chief minister Mr Prem Kumar Dhumal has reportedly said “a helpless Raja (implying Mr Singh) is being compelled to roam the lanes begging votes for his wife”. Again, in retaliation, the incumbent has been citing “corruption and misdeeds” during the BJP regime and describing the latter as “a party of traders” who “sold the land and other interests of the state to outsiders”. Some Congress leaders have even dubbed Mr Dhumal himself as “an outsider” to Himachal, with business and other interests in Jullundhar, Punjab, and have been accusing him of a large-scale “phone-tapping” to keep an eye on his rivals “within the party and outside” when he was in power. Meanwhile, the BJP leaders have also called Mrs Pratibha Singh “a mere tourist to Mandi who never found time to visit the constituency after she won the seat the last time in 2004”.