LOCAL ISSUES AND PRICE RISE HAUNTING THE RULING PARTY
Braving hot weather conditions and leveling serious accusations against each other, the BJP and the Congress have been fighting a do or die battle for the bye election to Hamirpur Lok sabha seat slated for June 2nd. Since this election is an acid test for the Congress and the BJP both, leaders and workers of both parties are leaving no stone unturned to contact the electors to seek votes for their respective candidates.
Though there are six candidates in the fray, the main fight is between two titans, Prem Kumar Dhumal of BJP and Ram Lal Thakur of Congress. Dhumal is the former chief minister of the state and Thakur is the Forest Minister at present in the Vir Bhadra Singh government. The rest of four are independents and are simply trying to show their names in the media while contesting the election.
This seat had fallen vacant following unseating of Suresh Chandel of BJP in Cash for query scam issue.
As many as 11,75,238 electors would cast their votes on 2nd June, 2007 for electing their Member of Parliment on 1,372 polling stations in the districts of Hamirpur, Una, Bilaspur and Dehra revenue sub division of Kangra. Hamirpur Lok sabha seat spreads over seventeen assembly segments of these four districts of the state.
While Dhumal is trying to win the election to Lok sabha for the third time, it will be first time for Thakur if he wins the election. He had already lost twice to Suresh Chandel of BJP in 1999 and 2004 elections. If Thakur loses this time, it will be a hat trick of defeat for him. He is, however, highly optimistic that with the Congress in power in the state, he will win the election this time and break the myth of losing the Lok sabha seat every time.
With leaders and prominent workers of both parties are busy in taking part in the corner meetings, the grass root workers have fanned to the masses to garner their support for their respective candidates.
The women folk and the families of ex-servicemen and serving soldiers are making their presence feel in this election also. They had voted for the Congress in last election and this time, they are working for the BJP in majority to take revenge with the Congress for the rising prices, growing un-employment and failure of the UPA government to solve their one rank-one pension issue demand.
The joint face of the BJP ( Shanta Kumar,former Union Minister, Prem Kumar Dhumal, former Himachal chief minister and Jai ram Thakur, state BJP chief )shown during the election has also helped the party to unite the cadre in all the seventeen assembly segments. Dhumal and another former Chief Minister and senior BJP leader, Shanta Kumar has been touring day and night in all parts of the constituency to seek the support of the people for the party. They tell the people that the time has come when Congress should be ousted from the state for its anti people stance.
The BJP camp is upbeat with the announcement of Sahib Singh Verma, the All India Vice President of the party that the fielding of Dhumal for the Lok sabha seat would not be a hindrance in his leading the party in the state in next Vidhan sabha elections. Dhumal is the party MLA from Bamsan seat of Hamirpur district. He is also the leader of the party group in the Vidhan sabha.
They are also telling the people that the Congress government has done nothing for them during last fifty months and it is proper time for them to strike and to take revenge with the Congress for ignoring them in field of development. Bumpy roads, water shortage, poor health facilities or lack of schools do not figure in the campaign. Here the illiterate voter works out national and local issues and gives you a fair idea of who would get the seat.
The BJP is also banking upon the issue of loss to crops by the monkeys that were trapped from Shimla hills and thrown in the lower hill areas of the state including Hamirpur, Una, Bilaspur and kangra. The Congress has no answer to this charge of the BJP.
However, the Congress is openly denying all charges on the development issues. Chief Minister and senior Congress leader, Vir Bhadra Singh is the star campaigner of the party in the election. He is telling the people that whatever the state and their areas are that is due to the Congress and its pro people policies. He is questioning the BJP everywhere to release a list of works undertaken by them during their three time rule in the state under Shanta Kumar and Prem Kumar Dhumal.
The Congress is making the corruption and development as the main election planks but it appears to be a backfire as the voters feel the Congress haath (hand) is also not clean. So far development issue is concerned; regionalism comes in the way of the Congress.
A hectic tour of various parts of the parliamentary constituency shows that the restrictions put up by the Election Commission has definitely saved the people from the wrath of the political parties. Though posters and banners are seen hanging at many places yet not on large number as the Election Commission has clearly clarified that no such poster can be pasted on the house of any one without his/her permission.
With leaders of both parties are in the fray, the independents are also trying to draw the attention of the people with their approach. However, they are unable to do anything concrete as the main contest is in between BJP and the Congress.
A visit to various parts of the districts of Una, Hamirpur, Bilaspur and Dehra of Kangra by the PTI correspondent shows that the people there are keenly watching the election scenario as they consider this election as the referendum of the fifty months odd rule of the Congress party. They remain busy gossiping on tuck shops, fields and even at their homes to predict the outcome the elections.
In a village of Dehra area, this reporter came across a group of young boys and girls who were chatting on the main road during the evening hours. They told this reporter that the bye election was crucial for the Congress and the BJP both. We shall vote for the man who will work for us, they said. However, they kept their option close to their chest.
The visit also reveals that there is a gross violation of the Model code of conduct during the elections by the ruling party. The flags and posters of the ruling party are pasted on the government buildings, buses of HRTC and private houses without getting approval from the concerned parties. However, those conducting the elections are not bothered on this issue. The reason is obvious: they cannot annoy the present rulers as they will have to serve under them for more than ten months from now.
The Women folk may play a major role in the bye election to Hamirpur Lok sabha seat slated for June 2nd. With almost fifty percent in number in the electoral list, they have already done a lot to change the governments in the state from time to time.
The total electorate in the Hamirpur seat is 11, 75,238 out of which there are 5, 87,735 men and 587,503 women. However, in Hamirpur district, the women outnumber men in the population figures.
Though men outnumber women in the Hamirpur Parliamentary constituency yet this is due to the reasons that the number of male service voters is much higher than the female service voters. Otherwise, the women population in the constituency is more than men.
In Himachal Pradesh, the women folk have already got 33% reservation for various posts in the panchayati raj institutions right from Panches to the Chairpersons of Zila parishads. They have been performing their duties well as the literacy percentage of females in the state is too high as compared to other parts of India. There are 67.4% literate women in the state and more than seventy percent in the districts of Una, Hamirpur, Bilaspur and Dehra revenue sub divisions of Hamirpur that forms part of Hamirpur Parliamentary constituency.
The women have played a major role in the previous elections too and that is why, the Himachal Pradesh has seen change in the government after every five years. During last Vidhan sabha elections, the women folk was annoyed with the BJP as a result the Congress got massive majority from the state.
The BJP is harping on the women as the groups of women led by their respective district and block level leaders are doing hectic canvassing in various parts of all the seventeen assembly segments. Braving the onslaught of the scorching heat, they are doing their best to garner support for their party so that Prof. Dhumal was elected to the Lok sabha.
Veena Sharma, the president of the BJP Mahila morcha says that the rising prices during the last fifty months rule of the Congress has broken the backbone of the poor and the women know how they were managing their kitchens under such worst conditions. She blamed the Congress for theirs such condition.
On other hand, the women activists of the Congress are trying hard to expose the corruption issue of the BJP. Anita Verma, Congress MLA from Hamirpur is harping on the corruption issue mainly. During her public meetings, she is telling the people that it was the corruption issue that led to bye election for Hamirpur seat.
Similarly, both parties are also mainly focusing their eyes to garner the support of ex-servicemen/serving soldiers and their families. There are about one lakh ex-servicemen and same number of serving soldiers in the districts of Hamirpur, Una, Bilaspur and Dehra revenue sub division of Kangra district. There is a tradition in these areas to send one of its boys to the Indian army to serve the nation and to earn livelihood for the family.
The families of ex-servicemen and serving soldiers are, however, annoyed with the present rulers for not taking any decision on the issue of one rank-One pension. The ex-servicemen of the area have been taking out processions and holding rallies in various parts of the state, especially Hamirpur to focus the attention of the central government towards them but without any results. They say that they are cheated by the Congress during the last elections as the than NDA government was going to take any decision on theirs this main demand.
The BJP candidate, Prem Kumar Dhumal has already started his pro-ex-servicemen campaign. He has been wooing them to support him in the election. Dhumal is highly optimistic that the BJP will get full support of the serving soldiers and ex-servicemen and thereby inflict a crushing defeat on the Congress in the bye poll.
The Congress on the other hand, is toiling hard to garner the support of the ex-servicemen and their families. The party has been constantly telling the people that it were the Congress that opened the offices of Ex-servicemen corporation and that of Himachal ex-servicemen board at Hamirpur to help the ex-servicemen of the lower hill areas of the state. They give full credit for this to Chief Minister, Vir Bhadra Singh for opening both these offices and thereby extending a helping hand to ex-servicemen and their families. The Congress leaders blame the BJP for the kargil war and sufferings of the families of war heroes.