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Himachal

Congress and AAP yet to find their feet as Modi's star shines in Himachal ahead of polls

IANS | June 11, 2022 12:28 PM

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is always at his best during election time. He has already started overshadowing his rivals quite effortlessly, whether he is in Gujarat or Himachal Pradesh.

Barely after a fortnight,the Prime Minister is going to hit the ground again - this time at Dharamshala, the second most important hill town in the state's Kangra district. He is planning a road show in the town, which is on the international map as it is the abode of the revered Tibetan spiritual icon, His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Kangra, state's biggest district with 15 assembly seats, is important for the BJP, and also the Congress, as the road to power in the state practically passes from here. BJP National President J.P.Nadda has already made two visits to Kangra and now Modi will hard sell his presence by spending two days with a night halt.

His earlier roadshow in Shimla - state's capital proved to be a big draw, giving Modi a huge political mileage as he tried to connect with the town and also some of the people he knew personally.

"Is Deepak still going to Jakhu temple every morning (on foot)" Modi asked state's Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur the moment he landed at Annandale helipad.

Deepak happens to be a modest BJP worker in Shimla and a prominent devotee of lord Hanuman. Modi knew Deepak since his days as party in charge in Himachal Pradesh, 24 years ago.

In fact, it is said Deepak had remained Modi's best host whenever Modi desired to relish simple home cooked food in Shimla .'Deepak Bhojanalaya'-- Deepak's vegetarian dhaba at Middle bazar was Modi's best place to eat and relax, after his long tours in the hills .

That is how the Prime Minister finds a connection with the hill state, which, he says, remains his second home, and it enjoys a special place in his heart.

The BJP wants to go to the polls with Modi as its biggest brand for breaking the myth that the incumbent party never returns to power in Himachal Pradesh, after a five- year rule .

In fact, before 1998-2003, when Prem Kumar Dhumal headed the BJP-HVC coalition government, the BJP could not even complete its five- year term in the state.

"Under Modi's leadership, many old myths are breaking down. Himachal Pradesh will set a new trend on returning the BJP back to power as happened in four states viz UP, Goa, Manipur and also Uttarakhand" Chief Minister Jairam Thakur said at a rally in Mandi - his hometown.

Though Modi's official agenda for Dharamshala visit on June 16 and 17, is to preside over two-state conferences of the states with Chief Secretaries - a first ever such event proposed in Himachal Pradesh, there is no secret about his larger engagement in the two states going to the polls this year end.

"If I tell the congress friends that Modi ji has two other visits as he is also due to travel to Chamba and later Bilaspur to respectively oversee commissioning a hydel project and inaugurate AIIMS, they will get a shock of their life," Thakur said.

The fact remains that Modi's focus on Himachal Pradesh ahead of the polls, has created quite a discomfort in the opposition Congress camps, as also the AAP - which is trying to gain some foothold in the state after the victory in Punjab.

The new Congress President Pratibha Singh has also suddenly become active and begun touring the districts with her son Vikramaditya Singh, a sitting MLA. Leader of opposition Mukesh Agnihotri and party's campaign committee chief Sukhwinder Sukhu are also going around giving tips to the party workers as to how they should shun factionalism and unite to oust the BJP from power.

"Is Congress afraid of Modi and his engagements in Himachal? When asked Agnihotri retorted: "Every party has the right to bring their national leaders to campaign but the question arises, what has Modi really given to Himachal Pradesh during eight years of his government. Did he announce any new project or give a debt-ridden state a bail-out package?" he asks.

Yet, the Congress having lost its potential leadership, after the demise of six-time CM Virbhadra Singh and Kangra strongman G.S.Bali, is struggling to cobble together a united face to encash on issues like anti-incumbency, unemployment, and price rise.

Nevertheless, while Congress tires to get its act together, AAP is also trying its utmost to seize the initiative.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, is on his third visit to Himachal Pradesh on June 11 along with Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Singh Mann. After Mandi - Chief Minister's home district and Kangra - a hotbed of state's politics, he has chosen Hamirpur - the home district of Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur.

Last week, the party also reconstituted its state unit - a jumbo body and chose Surjeet Singh, a farmer from Rajgarh area of Sirmaur to head the organisation. The party still struggles for a credible face to lead it to the polls.

Besides, the recent arrest of Satyendra Jain, health minister in Delhi, who was made poll in charge, the AAP has received a huge blow to its efforts to make penetrations into Himachal Pradesh's rural spaces.

With BJP going all out to hit the roads much in advance, Modi is once again its flag bearer. His pat for Jai Ram Thakur during May 31 Shimla rally has given Chief Minister - who is party's face for leadership - a real booster dose ahead of the polls.

(The content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)

--indianarrative

 
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