Aam Aadmi (common man) is the term perhaps nobody knows better than the BJP stalwart and Himachal Pradesh chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal.
Whether the BJP retains power in the state or not, Dhumal has got the stature of a chief minister who is accessible to downtrodden and it gives them a sense of satisfaction when they meet him.
Be it his dressing sense, his style of interacting with people or his political address, aam aadmi remains the first preference for Dhumal.
It’s around 2:30 pm in Dehar area of Sundernagar assembly constituency in Mandi district where Dhumal has to address a rally in favour of a young turk of the party, the gathering is impressive at the venue.
Suddenly, a voice comes from the securityman, “Saab is arriving in two minutes” and the sloganeering starts, “Ek Baar Dhumal Ji Baar Baar Dhumal ji”.
The chopper carrying the chief minister goes back to Shimla to pick national chief of Mahila Mocha of BJP Smriti Irani and to drop her at Nahan. All this while, Dhumal will address a rally in Dehar.
Dhumal’s address is full of issues affecting common man as listed by the BJP in the election manifesto.
He is comfortably delivering his address when suddenly Dhumal extends his right hand to his personal security officer (PSO) Kishore Kumar who hands over to him an induction cooktop, the electric equipment the BJP has promised to provide to every household in coming five years if the party retains power.
Everyone is amazed and it’s enough to make Dhumal explain the economics of the household to women in the rally.
“This is for you my sisters and mothers. If the BJP retains power, we will give it free to you. When the Congress government at the Centre has hit us by putting a cap on LPG, we will provide you relief. It’s very economical and needs very little electricity. Only one to two units per day to cook meals for the entire household. An addition of only Rs. 125 per day to your electricity bill.. Hai na kamal tuhan dassa (Isn’t amazing, you tell?)” he says.
The rally is about to finish as suddenly his officer on special duty and his most trusted man on personal matters informs Dhumal that the chopper, which was to take off from Shimla, had been delayed because of air traffic in Shimla as Congress president Sonia Gandhi was also scheduled to address a rally in the capital.
“No problem. Arrange some other vehicle quickly,” Dhumal tells Katwal, his aide. The chief minister is scheduled to reach his home constituency in Hamirpur by 3:30 pm where he has to address 10 small meetings. An Innova taxi is arranged and the cavalcade starts moving towards Hamirpur. “If you want, you can come with us,” he asked this reporter.
The atmosphere in the official vehicle of the chief minister is very casual.
“Kyun Kishore… Congress te gladi hai main amir haaan.. tu ta aam aadmi hai.. tu hi duss zarra…induction stove nu kina ka response milada (Kishore.. as per Congress, I am a rich man. You are a common man…you tell what response we are getting for the induction stove), ” Dhumal asks his PSO in Hamirpuri Pahari dialect.
Without hesitation, the PSO confidently replied, “Saab… Loki bade dukade…(People are really angry)… Induction stove has become a real hit.”
Asked whose idea was it to introduce induction stove in the manifesto. “Few youngsters of the family advised us,” Dhumal replies as he asks the driver to speed up as people in Hamirpur are waiting since long.
The sun has set in the hills when the cavalcade enters Hamirpur constituency, where at Baghetu, his one of the most trusted men, Pyarelal Sharma is waiting for the CM with his supporters.
Though by addressing election rallies in Theog and Shimla and in Dehar and after travelling for nearly one hour by road, Dhumal, 68, is expected to be tired.
But as he landed in Bagehtu, he seemed to be fresh and full of energy. He tendered an apology to a small gathering of around 70 people in the house of a party worker for being late.
Among the gathering were few elderly women. Dhumal asks one of them, “Aamma tuan dassa…(Mother you tell..) Minjo vote pauna ya nhi (Do I deserve the vote or not).”
Pat came the reply, “Kajo nhi..(why not !)... Baddi budepa pension bi te launi hai (I have to get the increased old-age pension).”
While moving from the second venue, when asked what special he was witnessing in this electioneering that he was sure of repeating the government, Dhumal quickly replied.
“Common man is with me. In last five-year rule of my government, I am sure I have managed to win their trust. They will help us retain power,” he said.
It’s completely dark and it’s the fourth meeting of the chief minister. “Few local leaders were telling me, “you don’t need to come in Hamirpur constituency and campaign in the rest of the state”. But my point was let me first worship my own voters. I have given you the development… it’s for you to pay back,” he stated at the fourth meeting in Changar village around 8:30 pm.
After every nukkar meeting, he is giving at least five minutes to interact with the local leaders. “Development booth ki lead ke hisaab se hogi...Jitni jyada lead utnni jyada development,” he said.
A youth who was drunk reaches out to Dhumal for a photograph with him. He first tries to avoid him, but when the youth persists Dhumal allows him to get a picture clicked.
The contents of his address are changing every minute except the issue of induction stove.
In Dhaner at around 9 pm, Dhumal raises the issue of less recruitment in Indian Army from Himachal.
When enquired, it was found the village has a good number of serving and ex-serviceman. Dhumal criticises the UPA for not allowing a regiment in the name of Himachal.
Still not tired, Dhumal finishes off a cup of tea quickly. One public meeting is still left although its 9.50pm.
Though the meeting is delayed by two hours, a large number of people, especially women, are waiting for the CM.
The village was having a good number of taxi drivers and here he raised the issue of his party’s promise to give free insurance cover to taxi and truck drivers.
It’s not yet over. Main party leaders are waiting for him in Hotel Hamir in Hamirpur although it’s around 10:30 pm.
He holds a closed-door meeting with few of his close associates and left for Samirpur, his native village, 22 km from Hamirpur. Though the dinner was ready for the CM in Hotel Hamir, he immediately left for his residence, stating, “I am aam aadmi… nothing satisfies me more than the daal-roti.”