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HindustanTimes Fri,01 Aug 2014

BJP on backfoot as state issues take centrestage

Pankaj Vohra, Hindustan Times  Dharamsala, November 01, 2012
First Published: 23:42 IST(1/11/2012) | Last Updated: 23:43 IST(1/11/2012)

The BJP seems to be increasingly going on the backfoot as local and state level issues are getting highlighted more than the accusations against Congress leaders, including former chief minister Virbhadra Singh.

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Major Vijay Singh Mankotia, a one-time critic of Virbhadra and now the Congress nominee from Shahpur, lashed out at the PK Dhumal government for "mortgaging the state to non-Himachalis".

He claimed even the cricket stadium built in this winter capital was in the control of Kings XI from Punjab and businessmen from Jalandhar got more tickets for the matches here than Himachalis. Land sharks from outside have invaded the state. There is no uniform development in the state and Kangra region has been sidelined.

While rising prices and scams associated with the UPA have had a negative impact on the Congress, it is the rivalry between the Dhumal and Shanta Kumar factions that is hurting the BJP most. Also, many BJP activists say the charge against Dhumal and his sons of favouring non-Himachalis has touched a raw chord among voters.

In this context, Virbhadra and Congress's strategy of keeping the campaign focused on the so-called non-Himachal assets of the Dhumals has paid some political dividends.

Birendra Singh, Congress general secretary in-charge of Himachal, said the party is pitted against BJP rebels in several constituencies as the official nominees of the saffron party are not even in the fray. This will, in the final analysis, put the BJP down.

He claimed the Congress would get around 40 of 68 seats and that the BJP is on the run.

In the crucial Kangra region, the tally would be 10 of 15 in favour of the Congress and half of the sitting BJP ministers - including Krishan Kapoor from Dharamsala - will lose. The campaign of Sudhir Sharma, the Congress nominee from here, has picked up steam during the past few days.

However, the Congress has its own share of problems. First, the English and Hindi manifestos are not identical. Second, the party has failed to put OBCs on a par with SCs for grant of loans. Third, the manifesto does not address the key pension issue, which has high resonance among the significant number of government employees.

Asked why he was so confident about the Congress forming the next government, GS Bali, contesting from Nagrota, said the party had kept its guns trained on local matters, including poor condition of roads and lack of amenities.


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