At a time when fear and anxiety had gripped contestants, state Congress committee president Virbhadra Singh remain unfazed and carried on with his day's activities as usual. The only aberration being that the Congress' chief ministerial candidate flew into Beas in Amritsar district to seek the blessings of Baba Gurinder Singh - head of Radha Soami dera, which enjoys considerable clout in this hilly state.
For 9 am, the usual buzz is missing from Virbhadra's private residence the Holy Lodge. After inquiring about poll preparations from his trusted lieutenants, the Congress stalwart quietly leaves for an undisclosed destination.
Virbhadra's wife Pratibha, herself a former member of parliament, is surrounded with supporters. Pratibha, too, has campaigned hectically in the state along with her 23-year-old son Vikramaditya Singh. "I have made every bid to improve the prospects of our party," says Pratibha, while asking for feedback from the supporters. "Rani Sahiba, Raja Sahib's hard work will bring the party to power with a thumping majority," says Umesh Sharma, resident of Sunni - that comprises Shimla rural constituency from where Virbhadra is contesting elections.
Voicing her concerns, Pratibha tells the supporters that she was anxious about the results. To which the supporter are quick to assure her that victory would indeed be theirs. "Ma'am, look at Raja Sahib. He is so calm, composed and confident," says one of them. Pratibha proudly replies: "Raja Sahib is great, he has seen and fought many political battles."
At 3:15pm, Virbhadra returns to Holy Lodge. However, his supporters are made to wait for some more time, as he quickly gets into a closed-door meeting with two former IAS officers, SK Alok and Subhash Ahluwalia, who have come to brief Virbhadra about the political scenario in the state.
A quick meal later, Virbhadra meets the supporters waiting in the lawns, but not before a battery of photojournalists ask him to pose for them. Reposing their faith in him, a group of waiting women says: "Sir, we want to see you as the chief minister for the sixth time. We are praying for you." They tell Virbhadra how they have been jobless even after completing their teaching training course and he asks them to only wait for the election results.
In a brief chat, Virbhadra tells this correspondent that he visited Beas dera, saying: "My visit to Beas was overdue. Today, I had little time so I decided to go and meet Baba Gurinder Singh, who happens to be a student of Lawrence School, Sanawar. I have had a long association with him and my visit was not political."
The Beas dera has more than 15 lakh followers in the state and the BJP government had made an
amendment to exempt religious bodies from the purview of land ceiling Act. "The BJP government decided to do this after a commission of inquiry looking into benami land deals revealed how the Beas dera possessed over 6,000 bighas of land in Himachal. The amendment was entirely aimed at appeasing the sect before the elections," said Virbhadra.
Meanwhile, chatting with his supporters, Virbhadra exudes confidence that their party would win with overwhelming majority. "It's may habit that I remain calm and composed. What I feel bad is that the campaign has stooped too low. But never mind, all the mudslinging has won us sympathy," Virbhadra concludes before retiring to his room.