Corruption drowns Dhumal’s chances in Himachal

Congress set to form the next government


Prasanna Mohanty | December 20, 2012

Corruption charges seem to have dragged the Prem Kumar Dhumal-led BJP government down in Himachal Pradesh. The initial trend in the counting of votes shows the Congress edging past the ruling dispensation in terms of the number of seats it may bag to form the next government.

This is quite in keeping with the see-saw battle that the assembly polls have come to characterise in this hilly state for more than two decades, and is also in line with the exit poll predictions. That, however, doesn’t, in any way, undermine the fact that corruption has played a deciding role in the change of the government that is foreseen.

Dhumal didn’t do too badly in terms of socio-economic developments of the state during his five-year term in office. In fact, performance of his government was perceived to be better than others and won high praise for promoting e-governance and education, in particular. But simultaneously, his government and his family increasingly got embroiled in unsavoury commercial deals. Accusations of selling off prime land to the outsiders and patronizing the land mafia came to strike a discordant note with the voters. Some of the projects were seen to be major threats to the environment too.

The other big factor to undermine his credentials was the phenomenal rise of his son and heir apparent Anurag Thakur, who came to wield too much political influence in the state and got himself entangled in shady land deals. This didn’t go well with his party or the electorate. Incidentally, Dhumal was propped up by none other than the then BJP general secretary and currently, Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi, when the BJP formed its government in 1998. The former became the chief minister for the first time, edging past better claims of veteran party leader Shanta Kumar. Modi has consciously kept his family members out of politics and commercial activities involving his government. Had his protégé followed suit, he might have scripted a different fate for himself.

Ironically, the Congress’ face in this election and former chief minister Virbhadra Singh, too faces corruption charges. In fact, he had to resign from the union council of ministers about six months ago when a local court framed graft charges against him. But evidently, that didn’t do any harm to his image as a clean politician and good administrator, nor his party’s prospects at the hustings.



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