Campaigning for bypoll to 3 assembly seats in Himachal Pradesh ends; polling on Wednesday

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Shimla/ Hamirpur, Jul 8 (PTI) Campaigning for the bypoll to three assembly seats in Himachal Pradesh ended on Monday evening as both the ruling Congress and the opposition BJP made a last-minute push to reach out to voters through roadshows and rallies.

Polling for the bypoll to Dehra, Hamirpur and Nalagarh assembly segments will be held on July 10.

The three seats fell vacant following the resignation of three Independent MLAs who voted for the BJP candidate in Rajya Sabha elections held in February and later joined the party.

Hoshiyar Singh (Dehra), Ashish Sharma (Hamirpur) and K L Thakur (Nalagarh) resigned from the Assembly on March 22 but those were accepted by the House Speaker on June 3.

On the last day of the campaigning, Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu addressed rallies in Haripur, Khabli and Dhalira, seeking votes for his wife and Congress nominee for the Dehra seat Kamlesh Thakur.

At the rallies, he lashed out at the three Independents who are now contesting the bypolls on BJP tickets, alleging that they are not concerned about the problems of the public.

"Independent legislator and now the BJP candidate from Dehra Hoshiyar Singh sold himself along with two other Independent MLAs to the BJP and betrayed the people," Sukhu alleged.

The chief minister said that the next state-level programme will be organized in Dehra on August 15 and problems of Pong Dam oustees would be resolved. He also said that after the Model Code of Conduct ends, Dehra will get an SP Office and a PWD office.

Sukhu accused the BJP, Congress rebels and the Independents of hatching a conspiracy to topple the Congress government in the state by misusing money power.

But the people of Himachal Pradesh have given their mandate against the BJP by ensuring the victory of four Congress MLAs out of six in the recently held bypolls, he added.

In February, six assembly seats fell vacant following the disqualification of Congress rebels for defying the whip to vote in favour of the Sukhu government during the budget, causing a major scare for the Congress.

The rebels joined the BJP and contested the bypolls to the six Assembly seats held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha election. The Congress won four of the six seats.

Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition Jai Ram Thakur, while canvassing for Hoshiyar Singh, questioned the chief minister's "silence" on corruption issues and claimed the people would give a befitting reply to the "dictatorial government" by voting for Singh for the third consecutive time.

"Who is the biggest mining mafia in Hamirpur and Kangra districts and what relation does the chief minister have with them? Why was the mining policy changed? Who benefited the most from the mining policy? Who is the kingpin of the most corrupt government of Himachal Pradesh?" he posed.

The BJP's state unit chief Rajiv Bindal, in a statement, accused Chief Minister Sukhu of misusing the government machinery and alleged that the Congress dispensation has brought development to a standstill in the state.

The BJP candidate Ashish Sharma and Congress nominee Pushpinder took out separate road shows in the Hamirpur assembly segment.

Former Union minister and BJP MP Anurag Thakur, who accompanied Ashish Sharma in the roadshow accused the Sukhu dispensation of being silent on corruption issues and misusing the government machinery to influence the bypolls.

This is the first time that a government is seeking votes without any achievement, he alleged, adding the Congress dispensation has failed to fulfil its guarantees but increased inflation and debt burden.

BJP MLA cum and the party's election in-charge for Hamirpur, Randhir Sharma, targeted the Congress government, alleging that its leaders were the biggest mining mafia in the state.

"The public knows that the chief minister and his family members are the biggest mining mafia in Himachal Pradesh. He gave a huge benefit to his own brother by making changes in the mining policy," he alleged.

A spokesperson of the election department here said that 315 polling stations have been set up for the bypolls. As many as 217 polling parties have already been sent to polling stations while the remaining 98 would be sent on Tuesday, the spokesperson added. PTI COR BPL NSD NSD