For Maheshwar Singh of Kullu’s erstwhile royal family, once an ally of the Congress and now back with the BJP, the situation Vidya Stokes finds herself in is ammunition to attack Himachal Pradesh CM Virbhadra Singh with. Stokes found her nomination to Theog rejected Tuesday.
“Mukhya mantri anaap shnaap bol ke logon ko gumrah karne ki koshish karte hain (The CM misleads people by saying baseless things). He even misled senior Vidya Stokes. He first took an assurance from her that she would not contest from Theog. And when the tickets were finalised, he decided to contest from Arki. He has deceived the most senior leader of the party, who are you and I to him? She was so shocked that she had to be hospitalised,” Singh told a gathering at Khani Pandhe village Tuesday.
“I was never part of the Congress. I only supported Virbhadra government from outside,” he explained to The Indian Express. “I was offered the Mandi Lok Sabha seat by the BJP, but since I was supporting the Virbhadra government, my conscience did not allow me to accept the offer,” said the three-time MP from Mandi, who had parted ways with BJP, floated the Himachal Lokhit Party and won in 2012. Last year, he parted ways with the Congress government to merge his breakaway party with the BJP.
Walking with a stick, Singh, 68, the BJP’s candidate for Kullu, campaigned in four villages in Lag valley Tuesday. “This is a metalled road,” he tapped the road. “I have campaigned in villages where I had to walk as long as three hours.”
His pitch is tourism. A lot needs to be done to tap the tourism potential of the state, he said, as it will provide jobs not only to residents but also to people from other states. “People from Bihar and UP also sell gol gappas at Rohtang Pass,” he said. “I would not say nothing had been done to promote tourism, but a lot more is needed to improve infrastructure and roads.” He said he had got a number of road projects sanctioned from the Centre and would, if reelected, focus on welfare measures including compensation for land acquired for hydel projects.
Asked whether P K Dhumal or J P Nadda would be the CM should the BJP win, Singh said, “It is the prerogative of the leadership whether to declare a chief ministerial candidate or fight the elections under a collective leadership. Having aspirations to becoming chief minister is a different matter… If I am asked to become CM, will I say no?”
Singh defends the Cente’s decisions on economy. “There was a lot of resentment over demonetisation. Ultimately, it was good. Black money came out,” he said.
About GST upsetting the business community, he said, “A lot of relief has been given and now traders say they are happy. When there were suggestions from business community, what was needed to address their concerns was done.”
Singh is contesting against Sunder Thakur of the Congress.