Thursday, June 5, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Campaigning a low-key affair
Rakesh Lohumi
Tribune News Service

Shimla, June 4
With just four days left for polling, electioneering in the three tribal Assembly segments has reached its peak with top leaders of the Congress and the BJP making efforts to woo voters.

While the elections to the 65 out of the total 68 Assembly segments were held on February 26, the polling in three snow-bound constituencies of Bharmour, Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur was fixed for June 8. In the intervening months, the political scenario has undergone a sea change. The Congress has wrested power from the BJP by winning 40 seats and this will be a major factor in determining the outcome of the elections.

Unlike the high-pitched campaign in February when top national leaders like Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, and Congress President Sonia Gandhi addressed a series of election meetings, the electioneering in the tribal areas has been a low-key affair. The Congress and the BJP, are the main contenders. The Himachal Vikas Congress, which shared power with the BJP for five years, has also fielded candidates. However, its campaign has not gained momentum due to the absence of Mr Sukh Ram, party chief, who is away to London for a medical check-up.

The poor show by the HVC in the 65 segments is bound to affect the party’s prospects, particularly in Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur, where it had a good base. In fact, Dr Ram Lal Markandey, who was the only HVC minister in the Dhumal Cabinet, is struggling to retain his Lahaul-Spiti seat.

Mr Virbhadra Singh, Chief Minister, who is spearheading the Congress campaign, has toured the three segments twice over the past month. He has addressed about a dozen meetings and will wind up the campaign on June 6 with a rally at Neugal Seri.

Mrs Vidya Stokes, Pradesh Congress Committee chief, has also toured Kinnaur. She is campaigning in Lahaul-Spiti in the final phase of electioneering.

Prof P.K. Dhumal, former Chief Minister, has been concentrating on the Spiti and Kinnaur areas. He has addressed meetings at Tapri, Karchham, Kaza, Yangthang and Kalpa. Mr Maheshwar Singh, MP, has been the main campaigner for the BJP and has devoted five days to each constituency that falls in his parliamentary seat. Mr Shanta Kumar has confined himself to Bharmour. Mr Juol Oram, Union Minister for Tribal Affairs, is the only leader from outside the state who campaigned for two days for the BJP candidates.

The odds seem to be in favour of the Congress but the BJP is making efforts to retain the Bharmour and Kinnaur seats. The anti-BJP wave, which swept the party out of power in February, is bound to affect it. Further, the HVC which supported the BJP in the 1998 elections, is no more a force to reckon with. Many of its leaders have joined the Congress.

The BJP is still clinging to its development plank which failed to work in February. It is also projecting the Congress as anti-people and citing the bus fare hike and reversal of decision to open new educational institutions as examples. The Congress is playing the corruption card and highlighting its decision to withdraw service charges in hospitals.

It is virtually a straight contest between Mr Tulsi Ram (BJP) and Mr Thakur Singh Bharmouri (Congress) in Bharmour. In Kinnaur, Mr Jagat Singh Negi (Congress), Mr Tejwant Negi (BJP) and Mr S.C. Negi (HVC) are locked in a triangular fight. There are eight candidates in Lahaul-Spiti but the main contest is among Dr Ram Lal Markandey (HVC), Mr Raghubir Singh (Congress) and Mr Yuv Raj (BJP).

Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh Tribune | Ludhiana Tribune
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
123 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |