Campaigning for the March 27 elections to the Dharamshala Municipal Corporation, the latest and only second such institution in the state, ended on Friday. Although the polls will not be contested on party lines, major political parties have been campaigning for their candidates for the past few days.
Former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal tried to put embattled CM Virbhadra Singh on a sticky wicket after the Enforcement Directorate attached his properties in New Delhi. The Congress has alleged the ED action to be vendetta politics against the CM and an attempt to destabilise the state government.
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“Congressmen are toppling their own governments. It happened in Uttarakhand. Once the results of the Dharamshala Municipal Corporation are out, Virbhadra will face a similar situation. Already, the ED has started tightening noose around him. Poll are, thus, a referendum for the corruption regime led by Virbhadra Singh,” declared Dhumal in Dharamshala on Friday.
Dhumal also raked up the World T20 cricket match issue and released two letters – one written by state’s Additional CS (Home) P C Dhiman on February 27,2016 and the other by Chief secretary P Mitra on February 29, 2016 conveying to the Centre that match could not be held as ‘people of the state are opposed to it’.
“Can the officers act on their own and write such letters without the Chief Minister’s approval?” he questioned. “It’s not a question of a match but it’s certainly an issue of employment and business in the town, besides giving Dharamshala a status of sports capital of Himachal Pradesh,” he said.
During the final two days of the campaign, Dhumal claimed that the Chief Minister betrayed the people of Dharamshala by opposing the match. “Tourism was already losing and shifting the match caused a further blow to Dharamshala,” he said.
He also hit out at the government on the issue of a central university, which Virbhadra Singh promised to Dharamshala. Dhumal released copies of a letter which CM had written to former union minister of Environment and Forests Jayanti Natarajan, seeking early approval for the Dehra campus for the central university.
The Congress government’s amendment to the rules regarding elections to municipal corporations also attracted the Leader of Opposition’s ire. “It was because the Congress has fears of losing the polls and thus it made this mischief,” he said.
The Congress, however said that the BJP chose to bring politics into the polls because it lacked enough support. “Dharamshala has seen massive development and new projects were sanctioned during the past three years,” said Sudhir Sharma, state Urban Development minister, who is also the MLA from the region.
In all, there are 113 candidates in the fray. The BJP has fielded candidates in 16 out of 17 wards, leaving one without contest as local residents were opposed to merger of this ward into the new Municipal Corporation. The Congress has more than one candidate in every ward as it could not firmly back a single nominee.