Congress election campaign in Himachal loses sheen

Shimla: Change of guard in the congress leadership on the eve of crucial assembly election in the state has left the opposition party confused in the ranks as senior leaders squabble over candidates to be put to battle.

“For over a fortnight, there is no party leader visible in the state, while BJP has not only released its first list of candidates but is even consolidating it campaign,” says Joginder Singh, a congress functionary.

Terming the Congress campaign, one based on press releases dishing out distorted facts, chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal summing up his five year term just before the election commission announced polls dates for Himachal two days ago said, “the congress ghost writers were in denial mode about the strides made by the state government that has even been acknowledged by the UPA government and the planning commission.”

Having released a list of 45 candidates, Dhumal said, “the other 23 candidates to be put up by the party would be released soon.”

While the chief minister completed a tour of the state before polls were announced, Congress called off a scheduled “Praivaratan’ (Change) rally in late September that was to be held in Chamba district.

With less than a month for polling to take place, BJP declared candidates out on a door to door campaign; Congress is yet to formally name any of its candidates.

Given the sharp divisions along faction lines in congress after former president Kaul Singh Thakur was unceremoniously removed last month to placate former union minister Virbhadra Singh, Congress stepped up efforts to bring back old leaders into the party and has already inducted fire spewing rebel Major Vijay Singh Mankotia into the party fold.

Over phone from Delhi, Mankotia let Hill Post know that after holding meeting with senior congress functionaries for the past three days, “procedures of re-joining Congress have been completed and I would be contesting the Shahpur seat from Kangra on the party ticket.”

The party would be make a formal announcement about my joining Congress tomorrow, he added.

The congress is also slated to declare its election candidates on the same day.

With congress making a die hard attempt to wrest one of the two states, Gujarat and Himachal, from BJP, the party screening committee headed by Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit is said to have approved 46 candidates.

“The caveat is that the final candidate list would only be declared on October 6 by the parliamentary board after party president Sonia Gandhi approves it,” said an election candidate who claimed that his name was on the approved list.

As Editor, Ravinder Makhaik leads a team of media professionals at Hill Post. Spanning a career of over two decades in mass communication, as a Documentary Filmmaker, TV journalist, Print Media journalist and with Online & Social Media, he brings with him a vast experience. He lives in Shimla.

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