It’s been a tough term for Virender Kashyap, first-time MP from Shimla. Like the proverbial spider in the legend of King Bruce, the BJP leader had finally entered the Lok Sabha after having lost six times, defeating Congress candidate Col Dhani Ram Shandil by a margin of 27,327 votes in 2009.
Kashyap, who had also drawn a blank in the assembly polls four times, had got the BJP ticket despite opposition within the party. The serial loser managed to secure a win, but he landed in a controversy over the ‘cash on camera’ CD (compact disc), which continues to dog him. The video CD purportedly showed Kashyap taking money from a firm seeking permission to set up an educational institution. The alleged incident took place in April 2009, just before the Lok Sabha polls. The Solan superintendent of police, on the directions of the Himachal director general of police, had formed a special team in January 2010 to probe the matter. The team submitted its report in March that year and concluded that no cognisable offence was made out.
However, in November last year, the Himachal Pradesh high court issued a notice to Kashyap on a petition for quashing the police inquiry report giving the clean chit to him. Petitioner Devashish Bhattacharya alleged that the inquiry conducted in 2010 (when the BJP was in power in the state) was not fair and was aimed at hushing up the matter. The petitioner had also sought a fresh ‘free and fair’ inquiry into the case.Wooing SC voters
Despite the CD setback, Kashyap has built a rapport within the party and struck a chord with the electorate, particularly the Scheduled Caste community.
After entering the Lok Sabha, he was appointed general secretary of the party’s Scheduled Caste Morcha. The BJP has been using his services to woo SC voters in various assembly elections and byelections. Kashyap played a vital role in garnering SC votes in the byelections in Rohru and later in Renuka (reserved) consituencies.
The questions on the state/constituency which he asked in the Lok Sabha included topics such as railway expansion in the state, special category status for Himachal Pradesh, setting up a food processing industry and cold storage chain in the state, and construction of the Rohtang tunnel.
Among the major debate topics were the need to declare the trans-Giri region in Sirmaur district as a tribal area; funds under the mid-day meal scheme in Himachal Pradesh; and the need to enhance Himachal quota for recruitment of youths in armed forces.
No cakewalk now
When Kashyap won the election in 2009, of the 17 legislators of assembly segments under the Shimla Lok Sabha constituency, eight belonged to the BJP, including then ministers Narender Bragta and Rajiv Bindal. He had also got the support of the independent MLA from Theog. Kashyap had got the maximum lead from Sirmaur district, considered to be a backward district, to dislodge sitting Congress MP Capt Dhani Ram Shandil.
Being in the good books of former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, Kashyap is the BJP’s obvious choice this time. However, he is set to face a tougher contest as the Congress, led by chief minister Virbhadra Singh, is in power in the state.
Part 6 of 34:
Mohinder Kaypee, Jalandhar