It’s 2pm and BJP candidate for the Hamirpur Lok Sabha constituency, Anurag Thakur, has taken his first break of the day at a supporter’s house in Ghanauri village. A group of men are eating lunch on the ground floor while Thakur is attending phone calls, giving interviews and taking selfies with the host’s extended family on the first floor.
He excuses himself for a quick bite and a cup of masala tea. “I have done 10 meetings since the morning and there are a dozen others lined up for the day.”
“Till date, I have held more than 500 meetings and there are another 70 planned for the coming week,” he says. Himachal Pradesh goes to polls on May 19.
Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Polling schedule, results date, constituency-wise results, FAQs, key candidates
The conversation quickly moves to Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s rally on May 11 in support of his party’s candidate Ram Lal Thakur, who is a former kabaddi player, four-time MLA and former state minister.
“The so-called rally had a crowd of 4,000-odd. That many people are present at our nukkad meetings,” he says. “Rahul-ji is the most confused personality I have ever seen. As a leader, he has no message, he just rattles off some lines, be it in the Parliament or outside… ” he says.
Hamirpur has been a BJP bastion since the late 1980s, with veteran leader Prem Kumar Dhumal holding sway as a three-time MP. He vacated the seat in 2008 to become the Chief Minister. Anurag, Dhumal’s eldest son, threw in his hat with the 2008 by-election, and has retained the seat thrice. “Agar aap ne is baar phir se BJP ko jita ke chauka laga diya, toh Delhi se Modi-ji Hamirpur ke vikaas ke chhakke lagayenge (If you hit a four by voting for the BJP again, Modi-ji will hit sixes for Hamirpur’s development).”
In the last year or so, Anurag, former BCCI chief, has started several sports initiatives such as ‘Khel Mahakumbh’, which he says, “is an effort to wean the youngsters away from drug abuse”.
But at the rallies, his narrative revolves around Modi. “Our PM works for 18 of 24 hours… In 2014, Congress said ‘Modi chai bechta hai’. You got rid of those who sell the country,” he says during a speech in Chalet, a village 5km from Ghanauri. “Modi-ji silenced the stone-pelters of Kashmir. China and Pakistan are sitting scared. He avenged the deaths of the soldiers in Pulwama by attacking Balakot,” he says.
But once the ‘sabhas’ are over, there are murmurs from the crowd.
Tara Devi, 69, said, “Whenever we go to government dispensary to get medicines, they say it’s out of stock. This should change.”
Asha Sharma, in her forties, was apprehensive how her neighbours had a pukka house but they don’t.