Updated: December 18, 2017 8:53:19 am
A day before the counting of results of the Himachal Pradesh elections, BJP chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal met a continuous stream of visitors at his home in Samirpur village of Hamirpur. Exit polls have predicted a big win for BJP, and hundreds of party workers, officials, and admirers thronged his house with flowers and sweets to congratulate him in advance. Dhumal’s son Anurag Thakur, Hamirpur Lok Sabha MP, was also present to receive the throng of visitors. Hotels and guesthouses in the small town were booked out by visiting BJP leaders and others.
“We have come from Shimla to congratulate him in advance because he will be very busy from tomorrow,” said Satya Parkash, president of Himachal Path Parivahan Nigam Driver’s Union, adding that 20 more people had come with him. “We are sure he will be the Himachal CM once again. We rooted for him. The Congress government treated us badly, we had to face a lot of resentment, there were no defined working hours, there were many dismissals.” From closer to Samirpur, Subhash Sharma of Toni Devi, 5 km from Dhumal’s home, said he wanted to meet him before counting. “Just to show him how confident I am of his victory,” said Sharma.
Speaking to The Indian Express amid greeting his visitors, who touched his feet and took selfies with him, Dhumal said he had wanted to go for a party workers’ meeting but could disappoint people coming from far and near to see him. Asked about his faith in exit poll predictions, a confident Dhumal said, “We are forming the government tomorrow, because people were fed up with the Congress’s misrule for five years.”
He said the Congress had tried to rake up demonetisation and GST in the campaign but these were not an issue in the state due to several factors. Responding to CM Virbhadra Singh’s statement that all exit polls were “fraud”, Dhumal said: “Tomorrow when the BJP wins, they will blame EVMs for the victory.” Asked if he agreed with Virbhadra Singh’s assessment that freshly anointed Congress president Rahul Gandhi would not be to blame if the results went against the party, Dhumal said: “He will say this in public, but in private he knows that the Congress leadership left the party in the state high and dry during the election campaign.”
Listing his priorities if he does become CM, Dhumal cited safety of women, end of “mafia raj”, restoration of people’s faith in government and maintaining law and order. “I want to take this hill state to the top of development,” he said. Asked if he would begin investigations into the various allegations of corruption against the Congress government in the event of the BJP coming to power, Dhumal told The Indian Express his government would not work on vendetta.
“If there is evidence, the law will take its own course.” But he said police officials allegedly involved in “mafia and drug menace” would face “stringent action”. Long queues of people waiting to see him snaked out of the house. Sitting in his office room at the entrance of his three-storey house, Dhumal accepted the advance greetings with no hesitation. Visitors were plied with tea and celebratory besan laddus.
“I am a practising high court lawyer in Shimla and I came to meet the future CM just to pay my regards to him,” said a lawyer who refused to reveal his name. He said many other advocates at the high court had also made the trip from Shimla.
Though several government officials from PWD, power and police departments were among the visitors, they refused to identify themselves, and said it was out of “respect for the new CM of the state”. Samirpur villagers said the rush of people began immediately after the exit poll results. In contrast to the bustle at Dhumal’s home, the BJP office at Hamirpur was locked. Party leaders said everyone was busy in preparations for “tomorrow’s victory”. Dhumal will start his day Monday by visiting his ‘Kuldevi’ (ancestral) temple in Awah Devi in the morning. He is expected to stay on in Hamirpur until the counting is over.
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