Ahead of Assembly polls, Himachal Pradesh CM's sister-in-law, few relatives join BJP

Vidya Stokes is the daughter-in-law of Satyanand Stokes who is credited with the apple revolution in Himachal Pradesh. File

With the BJP on its own and with alliance partners being in power in 18 states, the saffron outfit is hoping number 19 in its kitty from the hilly state.

While Congress is pitching for "Mission Repeat" in the 2017 Assembly polls, BJP is confident that the alternate mandate trend in the hill state will continue.

Stuck between a Congress - BJP political polarity since the early 1990s, Himachal Pradesh is to hold another general assembly election drawn on the same battle-lines, the schedule for which was announced by the Election Commission yesterday.

The Congress has already announced to go to the polls under the leadership of chief minister Virbhadra Singh. The BJP says the government has no money to pay salaries of employees; in September, it raised a loan of Rs 800 crore to meet its "ways and means" and daily expenditure, after having taken loans between April and August, too.

Singh, 82, is a five-term Chief Minister, the fulcrum of Congress politics in the state. He has many a time forced the Congress top leadership to give in to his demands in the affairs of Himachal Pradesh.

The panel will screen the Congress candidates for all 68 assembly constituencies before their names are approved and recommended by the state election committee for the final nod from the party leadership. Virbhadra said the Congress would win absolute majority in the election.

BJP is investing hugely in its Union Minister JP Nadda but has not declared any CM candidate so far unlike Congress. The BJP government was led by former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal. BJP has also taken out a "Parivartan Yatra" in the state.

The same week, Rahul addressed a rally in Mandi district, declaring Virbhadra as Congress' CM face and alleging that Modi government's economic policies have created unemployment.

In the last month and a half leading to the announcement of assembly elections, the Himachal Pradesh government has inaugurated or laid the foundation of 10 government colleges, two hydroelectric projects, over 100 rural road projects, dozens of bridges, water supply schemes, institutional buildings, a slum dwellers housing project, a city museum and a helipad in Shimla, and several more. He said that other major issues like mafia rule, crime against women including rape, murder and ever teasing, deteriorating law and order, huge debt burden, making announcement of developmental projects without making budgetary provisions and laying the foundation stones without preparing detailed project reports would also be important part of BJP campaign.

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