Mudslinging ahead of Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh is raising a political stink in neighbouring Punjab, coming as a boon for rivals of Chief Minister Amrinder Singh.
Singh has found himself the target of relentless attacks from leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and
its allies since he accused Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal of amassing property in Punjab's Jalandhar city.
After being threatened with a defamation suit, Punjab's Congress party chief minister has been accused of "moral turpitude".
The BJP and the Congress are the main rivals in the February 26 elections in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh.
Senior BJP leader Madan Lal Khurana on Thursday released in New Delhi photographs of Amrinder Singh and a woman pilot who is alleged to be his lover. The pictures were immediately published in several newspapers, giving Singh's rivals ammunition against him.
Former chief minister and Akali Dal leader Parkash Singh Badal asked Singh to step down on moral grounds in the face of the sensational "documentary evidence" of his "immoral pursuits".
Badal on Friday described the publication of "evidence" on Singh's alleged unethical dalliance as "the most damning development involving a chief minister since independence".
He said the reports published in the media could not be dismissed as "political allegations" because they were backed with pictorial "evidence".
"The kind of filth and indecency he introduced to the political idiom in Punjab will take a long time to be cleansed," Badal said.
Badal's outburst was expected because Singh has been going after several leaders of the Akali Dal, an ally of the BJP, on charges of corruption. Eight former ministers have already been arrested.
The allegations of "moral turpitude" have come at a bad time for Amrinder Singh, who is already drawing flak from legislators of his own party for allegedly ignoring elected representatives of the people and being selective in development works.
Earlier he faced embarrassment over allegations of three of his ministers harassing a woman employee of a hotel they stayed at. Those ministers have been kept out of the Congress campaign in Himachal Pradesh on the directions of party president Sonia Gandhi.
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