Election campaign in Himachal sees bitter name-calling, personal attacks

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Shimla, May 16 (PTI) “Kale naag", “bigda shehzada", “husn pari” – the election campaign in Himachal Pradesh has been marked by name-calling and personal attacks.

The bitter discourse that followed the cross-voting by six Congress rebels in the Rajya Sabha polls in February seems to have continued into the Lok Sabha election campaign, with some senior political leaders calling it a new low.

The level of politics is deteriorating every day, senior BJP leader and former chief minister Shanta Kumar said here.

Even leaders who are in the news for their harsh speeches and name-calling say such behaviour is uncalled for when they find themselves at the receiving end of such language.

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu has also spoken out against the nature of campaign rhetoric for the ongoing elections.

Speaking to PTI, Sukhu said that Himachal Pradesh had never witnessed such remarks during elections and this behaviour is against the culture of the state.

But Sukhu’s language against Congress leaders who cross voted in the Rajya Sabha polls has also been termed by the BJP as “offensive”.

Sukhu, upset over what he said were attempts to topple his government, dubbed the Congress rebels as "kale naag" (black snakes) and "bikau" (on sale) and stuck to his “bikau versus tikau” tirade against them during his campaign trail.

Nine legislators – the six Congress rebels and three independent MLAs – voted in favour of the BJP nominee Harsh Mahajan in the Rajya Sabha polls held on February 27. They later joined the BJP and the six former Congress MLAs are now contesting the assembly bypolls on BJP tickets from their respective constituencies.

At a rally in Kutlehar, the assembly constituency represented by Congress rebel Devinder Kumar Bhutto who was disqualified from the House for defying a party whip, Sukhu allegedly remarked “Bhutto ko Kooto (beat Bhutto)”.

The BJP filed a complaint with the state’s chief electoral officer, accusing Sukhu of inciting violence.

Another candidate who has been in the thick of controversies since her nomination for the Lok Sabha election is BJP’s candidate from Mandi, Kangana Ranaut.

Soon after her nomination, Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate posted a picture of Ranaut and captioned it “Mandi main bhav kya chal raha hai”. The post, considered derogatory, faced massive backlash, prompting Shrinate to remove the remarks from all of her social accounts. She claimed that they had been posted not by her but by someone else who had access to her accounts.

Ranaut has also indulged in a fair share of name-calling and has referred to Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Vikramaditya Singh – also her rival for the Mandi seat – as "bada pappu" and "chhota pappu".

She has also targeted Congress leaders of the Gandhi-Nehru family, from former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his father Motilal Nehru to Indira Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi during her campaign, calling the Congress “a disease” and “termite” left by Britishers, which was “eating the country” till 2014.

The actor has also referred to Vikramaditya as “bigda shehzada” (spoilt prince), asserting that she was not in politics due to her father or husband’s influence. Vikramaditya’s father Virbhadra Singh is a 4-time chief minister of the state and his mother Pratibha Singh is the sitting MP from Mandi.

Pratibha, the state Congress president, has called Ranaut a “pari” and that people only come to see her.

Reacting to the remark, the actor's mother Asha Ranaut said senior Congress leaders are making comments like “yeh husn pari hai”, and “yeh kya cheez hai", forgetting that they also have daughters at their home. “Being a mother, I am pained and feel that other mothers are also feeling sad due to such remarks.” Several senior citizens too flagged indecent language used in the campaign. Om Prakash Sood, an 88-year-old businessman, said, "Lines of civility have been crossed, we have never witnessed such a low-level political campaign in Himachal Pradesh, which is known as ‘Dev Bhoomi’, where people are respectful and decent." PTI BPL IJT SKY SKY