Dhumal will have to ensure BJP victory, not just son’

Shimla, April 26 (Inditop) As the political heat generated by the parliamentary elections grows in the cool environs of Himachal Pradesh, Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal will have to ensure that not only his son but also the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wins.

The ruling BJP is confident of “25 percent victory” – in at least one of the state’s four Lok Sabha seats – even though Dhumal and other leaders claim they will win all.

Dhumal’s son Anurag Thakur is seeking re-election to the Hamirpur Lok Sabha seat, which the chief minister represented earlier, and his victory is a foregone conclusion in BJP circles.

Anurag Thakur won the seat with a record margin of 180,000 votes in a byelection in May last year. The Congress has fielded Narinder Thakur, the son of a former BJP leader, Jagdev Chand, to counter him.

But seeing his son through in the Lok Sabha polls will not be the real test for Dhumal, who will have to ensure that the other three seats – Shimla (reserved), Mandi and Kangra – too are won by the BJP.

That is not going to be easy.

On the Mandi seat, former chief minister and erstwhile royal Virbhadra Singh is contesting against another former royal, the BJP’s Maheshwar Singh, who comes from the Kullu royal family.

Virbhadra Singh has been fielded for this seat by the Congress after nearly three decades – he remained in state politics and became chief minister during this time – and defeating him will not be easy.

Singh replaced his wife Pratibha Singh, who is the sitting Mandi MP, after she decided not to contest this time.

Dhumal knows the Lok Sabha poll will also be a vote on the performance of his one-year-old government.

“Yes, the elections will be the occasion to present the balance sheet of the government’s performance before the public,” Dhumal told IANS.

“In the past 15 months, we have achieved milestones in the fields of hydropower generation, education, industrialisation, infrastructure development and giving monetary succour to government employees. The elections will be fought mainly on the issue of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s failures, discrimination against us (Himachal) and the achievements of the state government,” he added.

But not everything is as hunky-dory as the BJP would like to project.

Controversies over the launch of a compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) scheme, allotment of hydropower projects, frequent change in power policy and review of appointments of more than 10,000 teachers under the earlier Congress government have rocked political circles during the brief stint of the BJP.

Congress leader Kaul Singh Thakur said: “We will expose the BJP’s doublespeak. We have prepared a chargesheet that will list all acts of omission and commission by the present government… it will be made public by the end of this month.”

Dhumal will have to contend with internal resentment in the BJP against his style of functioning.

“Dhumal is only promoting his clan and certain loyalists. His focus is just to promote the Hamirpur constituency of his son,” a Dhumal detractor in the BJP said.

“This time it’s a test for the 15-month-old BJP government to prove its popularity among the masses,” said Vepa Rao, formerly of the Himachal Pradesh University.

Congress sitting MPs Dhani Ram Shandil and Chander Kumar have been fielded by the party for the Shimla and Kangra seats respectively against the BJP’s Virender Kashyap and Rajan Sushant.

In the 2004 general elections, the Congress had won the Shimla, Kangra and Mandi parliamentary seats, while the BJP got the Hamirpur seat.