Himachal Pradesh is going to polls on November 9, and heavyweights have started rolling out the big names for their campaign — even US President Donald Trump. Addressing a rally Friday in Tissa town under the Churah constituency in Chamba, it was BJP leader and former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal who pulled out Trump’s name to woo the crowd. He suggested that the Republican candidate’s surge in the US presidential elections gained winning momentum only after he referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Now, I will talk about the most powerful nation in the world, the US, and its President Trump. Everyone thought Hillary Clinton would win, but Trump won in the elections. Who knew about him? No one thought he would win, but during the last days of his campaign, he said he would work like India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He said that like Modi is working to take India forward, he would work for the US. And he won,” claimed Dhumal, while campaigning for party MLA Hans Raj.
And then, came the punchline: “If this is the impact of Modi in the US, then in Himachal we are already No.1.” Dhumal, however, was silent on the communal tension that rattled Tissa just two months ago and chose to focus on “development” in the “backward constituency” — Churah has a sizeable Muslim vote base. “The BJP has always carried out development without any distinction of caste or religion,” said Dhumal.
“(Union Minister Nitin) Gadkari saab has been kind enough to announce a National Highway project for Churah. Soon, posts of doctors in the local hospital will also be filled, once the BJP government comes to power… We know how to connect hearts,” said Dhumal. In the last week of July, the alleged rape of a 15-year old Muslim girl from Tissa by a Hindu teacher in Khushnagri village had led to a mob barging into the local school and assaulting other teachers.
The teacher, who was accused of rape, was arrested and two Congress leaders who allegedly led the mob into the school premises, Dildar Ali Bhatt and Parvez Ali Bhatt, were booked by police. But the assault on teachers led to retaliatory violence in Tissa with shops burnt and vandalised over three days. Speaking to The Indian Express at the rally venue, Dhumal blamed the Congress for “trying to create communal tension using secularism propaganda”.
“We are trying to bring each community together and work for their development. On the other hand, the Congress has always misused the concept of secularism and tried to create communal tension. The people of Himachal Pradesh will respond to the Congress on November 9,” said Dhumal.
Referring to the Supreme Court ruling against “triple talaq”, Dhumal said, “Each Muslim here will vote for the BJP because they will vote for development. Our Muslim sisters are now free from triple talaq, which had made their lives hell. So why will they not vote for the BJP?” At the rally, local Muslim leaders from the BJP raised slogans of ‘Jai Shri Ram’, with one of them declaring that he was “a proud Muslim” and “a proud Jan Sanghi”.
“I am a proud Muslim. I am also a proud Jan Sanghi. Why did the Congress make no effort to educate our children in the last six decades? It is said that the BJP forces people to say ‘Vande Mataram’. Why should we hesitate in praising our own motherland, where we live and earn? If there is no problem in chanting ‘Allah’, then why a problem with ‘Jai Shri Ram’?” BJP leader Mohammad Anaar told the gathering.