Corruption a major issue in elections

PALAMPUR -Corruption in public life would be a major issue in Himachal Pradesh assembly elections particularly in Kangra the largest district of the state. Election campaign in the district is yet to be picked up but it has overtaken the agenda of development of both the parties. Allegations have been levelled against Chief Minister Vir Bhadara Singh his cabinet colleagues and his BJP predecessor Prem Kumar Dhumal.

It seems that the main contenders for power — the congress, which is making an attempt to seek another term in office, and the BJP — have gone for reversal of their roles from the last elections.

The BJP had to pay the price in the 2003 elections, coming under fire from the congress for allegedly being involved in corruption . The congress has now picked the issue of development, challenging the BJP to compare any of its five best years performance of the Virbhadara government. The BJP, without caring to engage in a debate on development has been making the corruption as the main issue, against the Chief Minister and had announced to release of a list of properties allegedly owned by his cabinet colleagues.

Mr Shanta Kumar in his speeches has made Vir Bhadara Singh his target and highlighting of the contents of audio CD released by the Major Vijay Singh Mankotia against the Chief Minister. BJP MP Prem Kumar Dhumal has held Vir Bhadra Singh a prisoner of corrupt colleagues, bureaucrats and congress leaders and a helpless person to initiate action against them.

Likewise Vir Bhadara Singh has openly attacked Mr. Prem Kumar Dhumal and said that five years regime of Prem Kumar Dhumal was most corrupt in the history of state. He alleged that it was Dhumal who brought the culture of corruption to the state. Another issue being raised by the congress is Viveka Nand Medical Trust.

This is the first time that the election is witness to personalised attacks on the main leaders of the both parties, with the ruling party paying back the BJP in the same coin, digging up the old issues. The audio CD released by the Major Vijay Singh Mankotia against Chief Minister Vir Bhadara Singh is attracting the crowds in BSP meetings.

There is appreciation for the BJP for making special development efforts in the road sector, getting sanctioned four new national highways for the state and additional funds for the state highways from the union government during its tenure.

The issue of corruption has now been linked to power generation, setting up cement plants, selling jobs (which largely people do not accept, but concede nepotism during the Dhumal rule).

On the other hand it has become a compulsion of BJP to field Shanta Kumar in the assembly elections. In the beginning it was observed that Shanta Kumar will not contest the assembly elections but now Shanta Kumar has started election campaign in the his home constituency Palampur. In a public meeting addressed by him yesterday in Palampur, he openly indicated that he would contest the assembly election from Palampur not Sulah. It is evident that if Shanta Kumar was not fielded then BJP might lose five to six seats alone in Kangra district.

A senior journalist from Palampur.

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