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After Modi's rally, Amit Shah gets down to preparing BJP's campaign blueprint for Himachal

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 4 May 2017, 19:07 IST
(AFP PHOTO/Dibyangshu Sarkar)

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi set the tone for the BJP's campaign for the forthcoming Assembly polls in Himachal Pradesh at a rally in Shimla last week, it was the turn of the BJP national president Amit Shah to consolidate it.

While Modi's rally was held in the state capital and the nerve centre of upper Himachal Pradesh, Shah confined his visit to the all important Kangra district which is seen as the nerve centre of lower Himachal Pradesh.

Sources said Shah's agenda was mainly to interact with groups of party functionaries taking care of the different cells and to chalk out the road map for the forthcoming polls. His interaction with the local media reaffirms that the BJP will be fighting the polls with Modi as its face.

The party is not projecting any chief ministerial face for the campaign as of now. Ironically, this was the same party that had taunted the Congress, in the recent past, for not projecting its CM face in various state elections.

“No decision has been taken over it (projecting a chief ministerial face),” Shah told the media.

He said the BJP is ready for the polls at any given point of time and added that the party is set to follow the strategy it adopted in the recent polls in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand where it fielded a large number of new and young faces.

Picking a spot

Shah choosing Kangra as the venue for his meetings has its political significance. This district that alone sends 15 of the total 68 legislators to the state Assembly is a deciding factor in formation of the state government.

Once a citadel of the BJP, the party wants to have its political monopoly over all the 15 constituencies. Kangra is also the home turf of former BJP Chief Minister Shanta Kumar besides being the 'Karmabhoomi' of Modi when he was an RSS pracharak almost four and a half decades ago.

Palampur town of the district has great historical significance for the RSS and the BJP. It was here that the party had adopted the 'Palampur resolution' in 1989 calling for the handing over of the Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya to the Hindus. Till then, the Ram Mandir movement was identified mainly with the Saints affiliated to the VHP.

In the last elections, the party had managed to win only three of the 15 seats in the district while the Congress had won 10. Two seats were bagged by the independents.

Shah understands very well that if his party is to realise its slogan of 50 plus seats in Himachal Pradesh Assembly polls, it needs to do exceptionally well in the Kangra district.

The Opposition

The Virbhadra Singh-led Congress government has a strong representation from the district at the top level. State assembly speaker BBL Butail, cabinet ministers GS Bali, Sujan Singh Pathania and Sudhir Sharma along with chief parliamentary secretaries Neeraj Bharti and Jagjivan Pal are all from this district.

Virbhadra had recently played a political masterstroke declaring Dharamshala, the administrative centre of the district, as the second capital of the state. This move left the BJP in a fix as it could neither welcome the move, being the prime opposition party, nor could it criticise it as that would upset the masses.

Observers say that it was the massive infighting in the BJP that led to its dismal performance in 2012 and this is something that Shah would want to avoid.

In his interaction with the local media at Palampur on Wednesday, Shah chose the occasion to attack the current Congress government in the state. Accusing Virbhadra of corruption, he said, “I have not seen any other political leader who is wearing the corruption charges as badges. Though Virbhadra Singh has been accusing the NDA government for cases against him, he needs to be reminded these cases were filed during the UPA regime.”

Shah then went on to charge the state government with failure in utilising the liberal grants being provided by the Centre. He said that as per the recommendations of the 13th Finance Commission, Himachal used to get Rs 11,131 crore per annum as its share from the central taxes. He claimed that the sum has now been increased to Rs 28,225 crore.

Similarly the grant for disaster management which stood at Rs 650 per annum under the UPA regime has now been increased to Rs 1,174 crore under the NDA regime. He also said that the local bodies that used to get Rs 642 crore under the UPA regime are now getting Rs 2,117 crore under the present NDA government.

Shah further pointed that that the NDA government has given an additional 3,900 km of roads to Himachal as national highways. He accused the state government for failing to prepare even the Detailed Project Reports (DPRs) for these sanctioned roads.

Countering it

His allegations were instantly countered by Virbhadra at a public rally that he addressed at Chandi in the Doon Assembly constituency of Solan district. Virbhadra charged the BJP's national leaders with being habitual mudslingers and character assassins. He said that Shah should know that by merely terming someone as corrupt did not make a person corrupt.

“Everyone knows the role of BJP leaders in the infamous post Godhra riots,” he said while adding that the BJP leadership never believes in facts and tries to manipulate things.

Virbhadra pointed out that it was wrong practice in politics to level baseless charges on opponents adding that politics should be healthy and not based on mudslinging.

Virbhadra said that former BJP chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and his son in connivance with union finance minister Arun Jaitley had conspired against him by leveling false charges. “So much so, three central investigating agencies are probing a single charge of my income tax returns which had long been closed,” he said.

He said that while being a state guest Shah has no right to involve himself by giving unruly statements and underlined that the latter spoke as if he was the judge though the matter is still sub-judice.

Once his rival, senior Congress leader and Virbhadra's cabinet colleague Vidya Stokes too criticised the BJP leaders for trying to implicate Virbhadra in false cases.

She said the central investigating agencies are being misused but at the end truth will prevail and Virbhadra will come out clean. Referring to the jibes from the BJP leaders on Virbhadra spending a long time in the company of lawyers, she said that to visit a lawyer is part of the legal process and BJP leaders should not have any objection to it as their own party leaders are also facing trials in the court.

Stokes also attacked the state BJP leaders attempting to mislead the people while keeping an eye on forthcoming elections. She said that it is an old practice of the BJP that whenever elections are near, they resort to politics of manipulation and malicious propaganda.

She pointed out the BJP leaders made tall claims during the last Assembly elections that the tax on apple imports would be enhanced to 100 per cent which was never fulfilled. She said that it is unfortunate that the prime minister has no concern for Himachal Pradesh and no steps were taken during the last three years to enhance tax on apple imports and the expansion of railways.

She countered the BJP claims of increased central funds by saying that a cut has been made in the centrally sponsored schemes for the state.

First published: 4 May 2017, 18:14 IST