Cong's Pratibha Singh is confident of retaining seat
Her worn-off make-up shows that she has been slogging it out all day in the heat and is tired as sitting MP Pratibha Singh reaches the Sundernagar rest house at 9.30pm.
As she relies more on local support she is accompanied by local MLA and chief parliamentary secretary Sohan Lal Thakur and other leaders. She meets people waiting to interact with her.
So far she has campaigned in all 17 assembly segments in Mandi constituency, she tells HT. She shares her concern, "The mudslinging and personal vendetta politics that has hit the state of late, and that too by the opposition BJP headed by former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and his two sons is bad. They feel we are the only threat to them."
She says, "Given the choice I would have quit politics but what kept me going is that we are here to serve the people. The state and the country should never go into the hands of unscrupulous people who are here to loot the resources."
A member of her personal staff announces dinner. She has a simple meal comprising dal, roti, vegetable and rice before retiring at 11.30 pm.
The next day, HT follows Pratibha Singh the entire day while she holds public meetings at Dharanda, Kapahai, Dehar, Chaanger and Ambedkar Nagar within a radius of 20-30 km from Sundernagar.
Revitalised after the night's rest, she wears a light makeup and starts her day after a breakfast of toast and tea. An ardent follower of goddess Bhagalamukhi, she wears a yellow suit and sports a 'tilak' on her forehead.
She has been travelling in a Toyota Fortuner for the past two months. "Yesterday, while travelling I detected a strange sound in the vehicle and sent it for servicing," she says.
Trying to be punctual, she rushes to Dharanda in a Renault Duster as the meeting is scheduled for 10.30 am.
Her cavalcade comprises a Toyota Innova, a Tata Safari, a Mahindra Xylo and a Scorpio. To protect herself from the scorching heat and dust she has her dupatta securely fastened with a hair pin and wears sunglasses. She leaves her mobile phone back in the vehicle to stay focused at the public meetings.
On reaching Dharanda, locals greet her amid slogans of "Rani sahiba zindabad" and "Raja Virbhadra Singh zindabad".
In her speeches she avoids mudslinging on her opponents and harps on the Congress governments' achievements both at the Centre and in the state. She tells the gathering, "Do go through the appeal sent by the chief minister that has all the development works undertaken by our government."
Locals help her beat the scorching heat by arranging for table fans, water and juice.
The morning newspaper carrying a statement by Prem Kumar Dhumal seems to have perturbed her where he questions chief minister Virbhadra Singh about the achievements of his wife Pratibha Singh.
She says, "I have taken up various issues concerning the state with the leaders in the UPA government, which range from the Rohtang tunnel, improving air connectivity, tourism development, relief for Kinnaur district that faced natural disaster, drinking water scheme and industrial package expansion, all of which had been agreed upon." She says bad roads would also be taken care of soon.
Appealing to people for votes, she also invokes religious sentiments saying May 7 is a big day similar to a yagna where people should come forward in big numbers to vote for their better future.
After having lunch at Sundernagar, the cavalcade is stuck for half an hour owing to traffic jam on the highway following an accident. While the public at Dehar waits, the cavalcade moves ahead once the road gets cleared.
She makes a new announcement both at Chaanger and Ambedkar Nagar, "Jitne jayada vote jahan se honge, utni hum us ilake ki tarakki karange. Ab aap vote mein kami rakhenge, to jo hum ne vikas karna hai, utna us mein bhi kami aa jayegi. Hum nahin chahte aap ke kshetra mein kami aaye.
Aap shat pratishat vote dain, hum shat pratishat aapka kaam karenge. (The development of the area will depend on the number of votes we get. If you vote scantly, so we will be frugal in development works we intend to undertake in the area. We do not want that work in your area should be limited. Give us 100% votes and we will ensure 100% work is done in your area)."
Before leaving the place, she makes another promise -- she would be back again after the elections, this time to thank the public and hear their demands that can be pursued by her both at the Centre as well as with the state government.
She then heads to Mandi at 9pm retire for the day and be part of the road show the next day.
Pratibha Essentials Vehicle: Toyota Fortuner
Sartorial statement: Normally wears a simple suit and sports shoes to stay active. Sometimes also wears the green Himachali cap. Wears particular colours on different days.
Kin factor: Husband, chief minister Virbhadra Singh, and son Vikramaditiya Singh, state youth Congress president, have been campaigning for the Congress in all four constituencies.
Core team: Moves independently and depends only on local leaders and representatives of the assembly segment she visits.
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- They were booked under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act 1985 on Friday and the process for their remand is on.