Congress nominee Pratibha Singh filed papers for the Mandi parliamentary constituency byelection at the returning officer's office here on Thursday.
Chief minister Virbhadra Singh accompanied her while filing the nomination. Earlier, the Congress organised a procession that began from Paddal Stadium to Seri Manch, Mandi. Virbhadra Singh led the procession, which was attended by a number of ministers, chief parliamentary secretaries, district Congress committee (DCC) chief of Mandi, Kullu and Lahaul and Spiti districts, former telecommunication minister Sukh Ram and former ministers and sitting MLAs of the party.
Most of the Congress leaders, who addressed the rally, condemned the BJP for selling out state land and interests to outsiders. They also accused the BJP for “raising and misusing” Ayodhya Ram temple construction issue at the time of elections and praised the Congress party-led UPA government for overall development of the state and the nation.
The chief minister addressed the rally at the end of the programme and reminded people that geographically Mandi constituency was the second largest parliamentary constituency in the country.
Singh condemned the BJP for applying divide and rule policy over state people and blamed for its disdainful attitude with the Mandi central zone.
“The BJP raises the Ayodhya temple issue every time when elections are near and try to divide the people. It has collected donations worth crores in the name of construction of the temple 14 years ago and no one knows where this money has been utilised,” he said.
He said BJP leader PK Dhumal, his son Anurag Thakur and former health minister Rajiv Bindal purchased farmers' lands at low cost, but sold the same to private universities at higher costs and earn illicit money in Solan district.
He said the state government was committed to constitute inquiry into gross violations of Section 118 of the Tenancy and Land Reforms Act and bring offenders to book.
Speaking on the phone taping issue, he said the accused BJP leaders, government officials and police officials who helped the BJP government would be punished under law.
Earlier, Mandi DCC president Puran Chand addressed the rally and praised former MP Pratibha Singh for raising construction of Rohtang tunnel for all weather connectivity in Kinnaur and Lahaul and Spiti districts, opening up of Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya in Kullu district and construction of proposed broad gauge rail track of the Pathankot-Leh railway line.
Former excise minister Rangila Ram Rao refuted BJP's allegations over non-utilisation of MP funds when Pratibha represented Mandi constituency in 2004 and said the list of distribution of funds was available at the district headquarters if BJP wanted to see it.
Newly inducted CPS Sohan Lal, MLA Mansa Ram, excise minister Prakash Chaudhary and transport minister GS Bali praised the state government budget, adding three more grains in the public distribution system (PDS), issuing of unemployment allowance, retaining jobs of teachers and lecturers appointed under Parents Teachers Association (PTA) provisions and reopening of schools which were closed during the BJP regime.
Sukh Ram gave credit to former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi for motivating him to bring telecommunication revolution in the country. He added that the telecommunication sector was the biggest sector that earned huge taxes which was responsible for development of the country.
Health minister Kaul Singh Thakur condemned the BJP government for selling out state land and power projects to outsiders.
IPH minister Vidya Stokes and Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president Sukhvinder Singh motivated party workers to work harder to deliver the Congress party achievements among people. Party candidate Pratibha Singh spoke for a few minutes and asked for votes and support.
Leaders waste time in self-praise
Senior leaders of the Congress, who addressed the rally, passed time in self-praise and lauding party candidate Pratibha Singh and chief minister Virbhadra Singh. No one except Virbhadra Singh spoke on future planning and commitments.
Almost every party leader said the present gathering had been arranged within two days after final announcement of the name of Pratibha Singh as candidate for Mandi bypoll. Leaders claimed that it was the popularity of Pratibha Singh that drove party workers from remote areas of Pangi and Bharmaur of Chamba district and party workers from tough areas of Lahaul and Spiti and Kinnaur to Mandi to participate in the rally. Most of the second-line party leaders seemed to be flattering top party leaders.