Former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal has taken it upon himself to ensure the Bharatiya Janata Party’s victory in these polls. Unfazed by venomous attacks by his arch rival chief minister Virbhadra Singh, whose government had ordered a series of inquiries against him and his son Anurag Thakur, Dhumal’s face is free of worry lines, as the opposition leader tries to maintain a calm and composed posture amid election campaigning.
With the state going to poll in the eighth phase, in the absence of senior BJP leaders, Dhumal is handling his party’s campaign single-handedly and facing barbs which get shriller by the day.
An early riser, the former CM starts his day with yoga, and after offering prayers, goes through the major daily newspapers, before setting out for hectic touring throughout the day.
Before starting for Theogh, where h e was to address a gathering, Dhumal apologises to party leaders and workers to have kept them waiting at his British-era government residence in Kirsten Hall.
“I reached late at 12.30am, so got late,” he tells them after he enters a small office room in his house.
After a quick chat, Dhumal leaves his office for recording at All India Radio and Doordarshan, but returns to his table to take the script of his speech. Before leaving, he tells his personal staff to ensure that the people waiting for him are served tea and ‘mithai’ (sweets).
By the time he walks out of the Doordarshan studio, he is already running late for the rally.
Party spokesman Ganesh Dutt and private secretary Prabhat Singh accompany Dhumal to Theogh, almost an hour’s drive away, in a rented Toyota Innova.
However, his constantly-ringing mobile phone keeps him busy, with his supporters giving him feedback about the campaigning in Hamirpur, from where the party is fielding Anurag for the third time.
“Yeh mera ya Anurag ka election nahin hai. Yeh aapka election hai. Mujhe pata hai aap logon ki mehnat rang laaye gi (This is not Anurag or my election, it’s your own. I am sure your hard work will bear good results),” he tells the supporters.
At Theogh, people welcome Dhumal during his road show in the bazaar area in spite of a sudden downpour. The crowd, which has been waiting for more than three hours, shouts slogans in his favour and dances to traditional instruments.
Reaching the local potato ground, Dhumal apologises for being late. Credited with strengthening the party’s roots in the apple heartland, Dhumal quickly strikes an emotional chord with the people, reminding them of his proximity to the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
“Modi held several rallies here when he was the state in-charge of the party, and is no stranger.
He understands the problems of apple growers,” he tells the crowd, moving on to rake up one issue after the other, from poor condition of the roads to lack of proper marketing facilities.
On his return from Theogh, Dhumal stops for a quick lunch at a roadside resort at Galu. Sticking to vegetarian food, he asks the waiter serving him to remove the bowl of paneer (cottage cheese) from his plate.
He takes a little time out to discuss the day’s national happenings. “Tell me what’s going to happen in Amritsar,” he asks a journalist.
Displaying his love for reading, Dhumal mentions a novel about spying by Russia’s KGB. With many meetings scheduled in Shimla, Dhumal leaves to attend a meeting.