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Acrimony marks poll campaign in Himachal Pradesh

Onkar Singh in New Delhi | February 18, 2003 16:16 IST

Mudslinging, allegations and counter-allegations have marred the run up to the Himachal Pradesh assembly election due on February 26.

But the intensity of ‘below the belt' campaigning by the two main parties -- the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress party -- has surprised even the most hardened political observers.

While the Congress, led by former chief minister Virbhadra Singh and Pradesh Congress Committee president Mrs Vidya Stokes has been attacking BJP Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal for allegedly amassing properties worth Rs 41 crore, Dhumal has virtually left no stone unturned to present his side of the story to the voters.

Dhumal, who is leading the BJP's campaign, claims that his government has done a lot for the people. "I am seeking votes on the basis of the developmental work done in the state by the BJP government," he told "We have gone good work in the field of power and we would make Himachal an energy state and should earn Rs 2000 crore through electricity distribution to the needy states."

Both the parties have promised to provide a corruption-free, development-oriented government.

The Congress has also promised to investigate "all the loot done by Dhumal and his henchmen." Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh was the first to allege that Dhumal had invested in properties worth crores in Jallandhar and other parts of Punjab.

The BJP has apparently tried to counter the high-octane Congress campaign by throwing sleaze at the party, and hoping it would stick. On Sunday, Gujarat Minister of State for Home Affairs Amit Shah alleged that the state police while investigating a sex racket had unearthed the names of two Punjab Congress ministers and a Congress legislator of the Delhi Assembly.

For Chief Minister Dhumal, this is an opportunity to mount a massive counter-campaign against the Congress, which had been taking his government to task.

Dhumal and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh have filed defamation suits against each other in Shimla and Ropar in Punjab respectively.

The entry of Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Jan Shakti and Kanshi Ram's Bahujan Samaj Party is likely to introduce the element of Dalit politics in the Himachal polity in a big way. "Himachal had remained unaffected by the mandalisation of the country so far, but I do not think it would remain so any more," a senior citizen of the state said.

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Read about: Assembly Election 2003 | Attack on Parliament

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