With high-decibel election campaign for the Mandi bypoll ending on Friday, the flood-ravaged areas in Kinnaur have suddenly drawn attention of leaders of both the ruling Congress and opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Under intense criticism from opposition BJP, chief minister Virbhadra Singh visited the affected areas six days after unprecedented rains wreaked havoc in the tribal district.
Singh, who himself remained stranded at Sangla village of the district for 60 hours, had chosen to fly straight to Mandi for campaigning within hours after rain stopped.
It was not before Thursday that he held a high-level meeting in Mandi to take stock of damages in Kinnaur and decided to tour the tribal district along with a team of officials.
Singh, who flew from Bhunter in Kullu, directed the district administration to hasten the efforts to restore road connectivity and said that all roads in the district would be open to vehicular traffic within a fortnight.
He assured that people whose houses were damaged would be compensated duly. "The main focus should be on evacuating stranded people to safer places by ensuring maximum number of sorties," he said.
Singh's visit is being seen as an afterthought to silence his critics. He had been under severe criticism for "inapt handling" of flood situation. The entire Congress leadership had remained focussed on the Mandi bypoll despite rains wreaking havoc in Kinnaur.
What's more annoying the affected people is that not even a single minister of the state or the Centre had visited the flood-affected areas to oversee the relief and rescue operations in Kinnaur, where more than 1,000 people were stranded and 20 casualties had been reported.
Just hours after the election campaign ended, the state Congress urged its ministers and legislators to donate their salaries for relief and restoration in the flood-affected areas. "State party chief Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu has requested all Congress ministers and legislators to donate their one-month salary for people affected by the Kinnaur floods," said Congress spokesman Naresh Chauhan.
Meanwhile, Anurag Thakur, national chief of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, who campaigned fiercely in the Mandi parliamentary segment, too, visited the flood-hit areas of the district on Friday.
Reaching Tapri village, which was devastated by a cloud burst, Thakur accused the state government of poor relief management.
"There was only one excavator working to clear debris, whereas the government claims that six had been pressed into services," Thakur said.
Demanding speedy relief, he said adjoining areas such as Meru, Yulaunang, Urhi, Chagoan, Punam, Jahi, Ramhi and Bruri were also under threat after the devastating flood. Meanwhile, he met all affected families in the areas and promised to extend all possible help.
Agnihotri takes a dig at Dhumal
Mukesh Agnihotri, industries and information and public relations minister, on Friday ridiculed former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal's statements over relief and restoration works in Kinnaur.
He said that such statements did not behoove former chief minister at the time of natural disasters. He said when the entire nation was with people of the state in this hour of grief, the BJP had been politicising the issue which was a matter of great shame. Agnihotri said the statement of the former chief minister that the state government had failed to manage the disaster, was purely misleading.
He said that disasters occurred without any pre-warning and playing politics on such an issue showed their (BJP's) hollow concern towards the people of the state.