Shimla: As stakes in the two crucial bye-elections in Himachal become more intense, chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal with his trademark maroon cap and his predecessor Virbhadra Singh in a green cap head into Rohru for the final round of electioneering.
With a firm BJP state government in place, the bye-elections being conducted in Rohru â€“ a congress bastion and in Jawali, a BJP backyard is fast turning out to be a contest of Himachali cap display, as a maroon cap marks the hold of chief minister Dhumal, whereas a green one that of his predecessor Virbhadra.
Not just the BJP candidates in the fray, Khushi Ram Balnahta from Rohru and Baldev Raj Choudhary from Jawali are visible campaigning supporting the maroon cap, but even ministers and other party workers who otherwise do not wear caps are don the cap, to display affinity.
Former chief minister Virbhadra Singh, who on becoming a union minister after the May general elections had got rid of his green strip cap, is back to wearing it again as he campaigns across the two constituencies.
Sounding worried, Mohinder Chauhan, a congressman and supporter of Virbhadra Singh in Rohru remarked, â€œthere are more maroon caps visible in this election, it could spell trouble for our party.â€
â€œOur leaders have handed us a difficult task. Trashing the recommendation of the local congress committee about preference for Pratibha Singh as the party candidate and launching Manjit Thakur could prove a costly gamble,â€ he added.
Roughing up of congress presdient Kaul Singh in the presence of Virbhadra Singh during an earlier electioneering round has made CLP leader Vidya Stokes opt out of campainging for Manjit.
Cancelling her tour schedule to Rohru, instead she has headed to Jawali, at the last moment.
Keeping count of the caps colours, Chhotu Lal, a BJP supporter in Pujarli village, Rohru observes, â€œafter former chief minister Virbhadra Singh started campaigning for Manjit, the green caps are back in larger numbers.â€
â€œIt is Balnahtaâ€™s best chance to make it to the assembly as there is a lot of resentment among disgruntled congressmen and we are banking upon them to change colours on poll day, he added.
While green cap congress is on the backfoot defending its citadel in Rohru, in Jawali, Mohan Sharma, brother of Rajan Sushant â€“ BJP MP from Kangra is playing spoilsport for the ruling cap party.
On being denied the saffron ticket, Sharma threw in his hat as an independent and is proving to be troublesome for BJP, whereas Sujjan Singh Pathania, a four time congress legislator has gained an edge over Baldev Choudhary, the BJP new comer.
The November 7 bye-elections have been thrust on the two constituencies as legislators Sushant and Virbhadra resigned their seats soon after winning the general parliamentary elections.
To protect their backyards, both leaders had supported the candidature of their spouses for the vacancies created, but both national parties overriding the winnablity criteria have fielded grassroot party workers, who never expected to ever contest an election.