Has the Congress party given up without a contest? Well that is the impression one gets from the way the election campaign of the party is being conducted in the Himachal Pradesh Assembly polls scheduled for November 9.
And the fissures are not only at the state level but it seems the division is right at the top also. While the BJP has not only stolen a march over Congress by announcing former Chief Minister and Sujanpur party candidate, Prem Kumar Dhumal as the choice for the post of the Chief Minister in case party wins the mandate, it has also unleashed a stream of start campaigners led by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi to win over the voters of the Hill State. In fact, Mr. Modi has been driving this point to the voters during his election rallies in the state.
In contrast, the Congress campaign is being mostly led by the old fox and Chief Minister, Virbhadra Singh who, despite being 83, is trans-versing across the State and will wrap up the election campaign with canvassing in Shimla (Rural) assembly segment from where his son, Vikramaditya Singh is contesting. The Congress campaign in the state is in complete disarray as its “war roomÂÂ in the party office in Shimla is virtually non-functional indicating the trust deficit between the party and the Government. The State Congress president, Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu is contesting from Nadaun assembly segment.
Surprisingly, there is already buzz that Congress vice-president, Rahul Gandhi, who has been upset with the threats and blackmailing tactics of Mr. Singh is keeping a deliberate distance from the Himachal polls and instead focusing on Gujarat which will go to polls only mid next month. With campaigning scheduled to end on November 7, there are hardly four days left for senior party leaders to jump into the electoral battle. Mr. Gandhi, who had addressed a election rally in Mandi in early October, has yet to address a rally in support of the party candidates. Similarly, the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, who has been keeping poor health, has also not addressed any rally in the state.
Mr. Gandhi has been upset with the manner in which Mr. Singh had held the party to ransom by dictating terms for the past six months and even threatening to split the party in case his demands are not accepted. The Chief Minister has been demanding the removal of the Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee president Sukhwiner Singh Sukhu which was strongly resisted by Mr. Gandhi. Not only this, he even forced the Congress high command to remove Sukhu as the chairman of the Campaign Committee and get himself nominated for the same. Even in the distribution of tickets, Mr. Virbhadra Singh left no stone unturned to put down the State Congress president and his supporters.
With Congress having little or no option at the eleventh hour, Mr Singh managed to have his way. Interestingly, Mr. Singh also accused veteran Congress leader and party general secretary, Sushil Kumar Shinde of giving preference or patronage to dissidents and his rivals within the party. On the other hand, senior party leader, Anand Sharma has been doing his party of the campaign in the state especially for his supporters. Mr. Sharma and Mr. Singh donÂt see eye to eye which has further created issues within the party and the direction of his campaign. “The Congress vice president has left it to the Chief Minister to lead the campaign. He is upset with Mr. Singh for having virtually hijacked the party in the state. Now he wants that if the party does not win, it is Mr. Singh who should take the entire blame and hold others responsible for the loss as he was given a free hand,ÂÂ a Congress party functionary remarked.