Shimla: As the Nov 4
polling day for the Himachal Pradesh assembly elections draws
near, a war of words has broken out between two arch rivals - the
ruling BJP's Prem Kumar Dhumal and the Congress' Virbhadra Singh.
They target each other, mainly on the raging issue of political
The Bharatiya Janata Party's election slogan is: "Kaho dil se,
Dhumal phir se" (Say from the heart, Dhumal should return).
The Congress has countered with: "Kaho dil se, corruption phir se"
(Say from the heart, corrupt government will return if the BJP is
Virbhadra Singh doesn't forget to take a jibe at Dhumal over his
roots. "He (Dhumal) is a businessman from Jalandhar (in Punjab)
and will be sent packing to Jalandhar," the five-time former chief
minister said at one of his public meetings.
Dhumal is also paying back the Congress leader in the same coin by
attacking him over the Ispat Industries payoff, wherein a diary
entry of Rs.2.28 crore was marked against the initials "VBS"
during the period when the latter was steel minister in the
"Who is this 'VBS'? Please explain," Dhumal demanded at one of his
On the rise in Virbhadra Singh's income to Rs.6.15 crore through
the sale of apples from his orchards from 2008-11, Dhumal said:
"For Virbhadra Singh, money grows on trees."
Countering this, the Congress leader said: "The builder of
Himachal Pradesh is (first chief minister) Y.S. Parmar and the
seller is Dhumal. "The entire Himachal is on sale. If anyone wants
to buy a property in Himachal, he should contact Oak Over (the
chief minister's residence) or Jalandhar."
"The BJP is scared of even my shadow," Virbhadra Singh, who is
facing charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act for alleged
misuse of his official position and criminal misconduct when he
was chief minister in 1989, told IANS.
He said the BJP "is indulging in my character assassination
because it has sensed defeat, but this has only strengthened me in
the eyes of people, who know me for decades".
He termed the BJP government in the state as "Dhumal's private
"Dhumal is 'pita' (father), (his MP son) Anurag Thakur 'putra'
(son) and (Anurag's father-in-law and cabinet minister) Gulab
Singh Thakur is papa," said Virbhadra Singh.
Despite allegations, a confident Dhumal said his biggest
achievement over the past five years was winning the trust of the
'aam aadmi' or the common man.
"We are harping on the UPA's failures which led to inflation,
capping of LPG cylinders and bringing FDI (foreign direct
investment) in multi-brand retail," Dhumal told IANS.
His latest poll promise is an induction cooker. BJP leaders make
it a point to note that it "runs on electricity, not LPG".
Political observers say the promise of providing an induction
cooker to every household gives the BJP a chance to hit out
directly at the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance
government's decision to put an annual cap on the number of
subsidised LPG cylinders.
"Initially, the BJP was hitting out at the Congress, mainly
Virbhadra Singh, on corruption. But when (party chief) Nitin
Gadkari got embroiled in controversies, they suddenly took up the
issue of development. Now the Congress is aggressive on corruption
and the BJP is more on the defensive," an observer said.
The votes cast in the Himachal polls will be counted December 20,
after the Gujarat elections are over.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)