Thursday, February 20, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Snow virtually freezes campaign

Poll material buried under snow in Shimla.
Poll material buried under snow in Shimla. This photo was taken by Anil Dayal on Wednesday.

Shimla, February 19
Inclement weather continued to play spoilsport in electioneering in Himachal Pradesh, keeping political parties on the tenterhooks over the visits of VVIPs for campaigning.

Uncertainty hovered over the scheduled rallies of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee at Mandi and Shimla tomorrow while the rallies of Congress President Sonia Gandhi scheduled for today had already been cancelled.

Snow virtually grounded the campaign in high-altitude areas, forcing people to stay indoors. Vehicular traffic was hampered and leaders were not able to stick to their schedule for holding meetings.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi had to reschedule his campaign programme while the visit of BJP President Mr Venkaiah Naidu was cancelled due to bad weather. A host of top leaders of the BJP and the Congress were set to visit the state in the final leg of electioneering, closing on February 24, but bad weather upset their plans.

KULU: Congress President Sonia Gandhi once again failed to keep her date with the electorate in Himachal Pradesh on Wednesday as her election tour to the state was further postponed to February 21 due to bad weather in the region. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is expected to hit the campaign trail in the state tomorrow.

Ms Gandhi was initially scheduled to begin her electioneering yesterday at the famous Dussehra grounds here the same venue from where Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani launched the BJP campaign last week. Her campaign was postponed for a day due to continuous rain in the lower valley of Kulu and snowfall in the upper valley of Manali since Saturday night.

The two-day tour was curtailed to a whirlwind one-day trip, during which the Congress leader was to launch her campaign from Chamba this morning, fly to Palampur for another meeting in the noon and address an afternoon rally here. It was being considered to be a test of the comparative popularity of Ms Gandhi and Mr Advani.

Her tour was further postponed as the dense cloud cover refused to give way to the sun yesterday. UNI

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