When two Himachal heavyweights slug it out (Elections Special)

Posted By: IANS
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Shimla, April 6: In Himachal Pradesh, it's a battle of supremacy between two political archrivals -- Virbhadra Singh and Prem Kumar Dhumal -- in the parliamentary elections where development and corruption have been pushed to the background as personal attacks dominate.

With Virbhadra Singh and Dhumal being at the state's helm alternately for over 20 years, the state politics revolves around personal issues of both the leaders, say political observers.

The former is the Congress veteran and the latter belongs to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

In this election the spotlight has turned to the Hamirpur and Mandi seats from where Dhumal's son Anurag Thakur and Virbhadra Singh's wife Pratibha Singh, respectively, are again in the fray.

Both are two-time MPs, but Thakur, who is also president of the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA), is trying to hit a 'hat-trick'.

A political observer said a trend has been seen in the state politics of registering criminal cases against each other. When one is in the saddle, he registers a case against the opponent.

This time Virbhadra Singh, who is chief minister for his record sixth stint, got sanction just ahead of the Lok Sabha elections to initiate criminal proceedings against Leader of Opposition Dhumal in alleged wrongdoings in allotment of land to the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) during his regime.

Official sources said the government action came after allegations against the HPCA over converting itself from a society to a company.

"Nobody has ever raised a finger on my honesty and integrity during my innings in the state and the centre. I was made to face court cases each time Dhumal came to power," Virbhadra Singh told IANS.

Firing pot-shots at Virbhadra Singh, two-time chief minister Dhumal said the Congress was trying to divert the attention of public during the elections by unleashing a vendetta against political opponents.

Addressing election rallies in the Shimla (reserved) constituency, Dhumal Friday slammed the chief minister for implicating political rivals in frivolous cases.

"Being surrounded by irregularities committed by him and his family, this is Virbhadra Singh's last-ditch effort to frame others," Dhumal said.

Political observers say issues like development and price rise have been pushed to the background as personal attacks dominate most of the election rallies.

"Apart from mudslinging, there is no public-specific agenda with both the leaders. They are just trying to woo voters by raking up personal issues," an observer said.

Virbhadra Singh is targeting Dhumal by saying he has always worked with a political vendetta against him.

But at the same time Virbhadra Singh does not forget to add that he "has no personal enmity with the Dhumal family".

Political pundits said Dhumal, who took over reins of the state for the second time Dec 30, 2007, did a lot of development work during his two stints compared to the Congress regimes but he failed to convert it into a vote bank.

"Most of the time Dhumal, who is the party's star campaigner, is trying to justify misdeeds of his sons," admitted a senior BJP leader.

According to him, a common feeling is prevailing that the government is wasting much time in conducting inquiries against the opponents than focussing on development.

"This point needs to be taken to the voters at the grassroots," he added.

Voting for the four Lok Sabha seats, which will go to the polls May 7, will once again prove the popularity and supremacy of the two archrivals.


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