Even as the Election Commission announced the Himachal Pradesh elections on Thursday, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh said that the ruling Congress was fully prepared and would win a “comfortable majority” in the Assembly. The opposition BJP also expressed confidence that it would register a “historic win to end mafia raj in the state”. The Congress and BJP, the principal political players in the state, have been registering alternate wins in the 68-member House. This time, while the BJP is hoping to unseat the Congress, the Congress is working on a ‘Mission Repeat’ slogan under Virbhadra based on the development plank.
Replying to questions from the media, six-time CM Virbhadra said, “Congress is fully prepared… I started the campaign and preparations six months ago with extensive touring. I will form the government again. We will get a comfortable majority.” On the BJP’s claim of winning 50-plus seats, he said, “The BJP is living in a fool’s paradise. It is caught up with infighting and has not been able to declare its leader.”
Meanwhile, BJP leader and former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal said, “The BJP is all set to register a historic win to put an end to mafia raj in the state. The Congress and Virbhadra must read the mood of the people.”
He said the party had been in poll mode, having conducted the Parivartan Rath Yatra, Jan Sampark Abhiyan, Mahila and Dalit Sammelans for mobilisation up to the booth level. “Corruption in the government and the CM being on bail is a bigger factor in the polls. There is no development, only announcements without budget. Security of women is another issue,” he said, alluding to the rape and murder of a teenage girl in Shimla and corruption charges against Virbhadra.
Dismissing these charges, Congress leader Anand Sharma said, “Mere allegations of corruption against a leader doesn’t make someone corrupt. There have been so many leaders in the BJP who have serious corruption charges (against them)… Have they ordered a probe against them?”
He also wondered why the government did not order a probe into the business of Jay Shah, son of BJP president Amit Shah, in light of The Wire report on his company. Minutes before the EC announced the poll dates, Virbhadra said, “The sitting MLA (Vidya Stokes) and local Block Congress Committee has invited me to contest from Theog.” A seven-time MLA, Stokes (90) wants to retire from electoral politics.