Controversy over functioning of the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association may have been fuelled political fire between chief minister Virbhadra Singh and his predecessor Prem Kumar Dhumal, but cricket, as it seems, has come handy to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to mobilise youths ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, while the Congress is busy seeking views from the youngsters on its manifesto.
Cricket in Himachal Pradesh mired in controversy when the Virbhadra Singh government ordered an inquiry into the alleged irregularities in the HPCA, headed by Hamirpur MP Anurag Thakur.
Following a national agenda 'Khelega Yuva Jeetega Bharat', state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) has decided to organise cricket tournaments in every district of the state, and taking it to the national level by holding inter-state contests.
"Any citizen of India between 18 and 35 years can participate in the cricket tournament starting from January 14," said BJYM spokesperson Karan Nanda.
In Himachal, 62, 133 voters are teenagers and nearly 48% voters are below 40.
The ruling Congress is aggressively pushing ahead AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi's idea of 'open manifesto', aiming to make it more inclusive by seeking youths' suggestions. The Congress' move is seen by many as a departure from its traditional practice, where a group of senior leaders used to chalk out strategy and yfinalised the manifesto.
In order to make the campaign a success, the state Youth Congress has made several teams to seek suggestions, besides loading a form on its website.
Student outfit of Congress - National Students' Union of India (NSUI) - had also started a campaign for the open manifesto. It had reportedly received over 17,000 suggestions from across the state through various means of communications.
NSUI president Yadopati Thakur said the Congress would reach out to maximum youth and Lok Sabha election manifesto would include their suggestions. The Congress Manifesto would be people's manifesto, he added.
The ruling Congress has started a skill development allowance scheme under which unskilled youths between 16 to 35 years of age get a monthly allowance of Rs 1,000.
Earlier the age criterion was 25 to 35 years, which was lowered after state Congress president Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu and youth Congress president Vikramaditya Singh requested to the state government in this regard.
However, to counter the Congress's Skill Development Scheme, the BJYM has kicked off a Campus Ambassador Programme (CAP), which aims at using the campus ambassadors to promote the BJP ideology. "They will be conducting voter registration and awareness drives, inviting suggestions and feedback to draft the BJP's policy for the youths and undertaking signature campaigns on various issues," said BJYM national media co-convener Nupur Sharma.
The BJP has planned to mobilise the youth through these ambassador.