The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Amarinder digs claws into rival

Nalagarh (Himachal Pradesh), Feb. 11: Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh today stormed this erstwhile kingdom along with senior party leader Arjun Singh to seek votes for Maharani Sukriti Kumari, who is contesting for the first time.

“I have come all the way from Punjab to seek votes against corruption. I can only give you my example, the way my government is running the administration in Punjab,” Amarinder said.

“I am waging a war against corruption in my state and have ensured that government jobs are no longer put on sale. If you want a good future for your children and grandchildren, vote for the Congress. Throw out the corrupt BJP,” he said amid applause from the people gathered at the grain market here.

Amarinder literally tore apart BJP chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal by questioning his residential status. “He is Himachal’s chief minister, but his business is in Jalandhar,” he said.

“His family came from Pakistan and settled in Jalandhar. He has everything in Punjab but is Himachal’s chief minister. This is amazing.”

Reiterating his allegation that Dhumal had looted Himachal Pradesh, Amarinder said: “He has property worth Rs 41 crore in Jalandhar. As chief minister, he and his family added property worth Rs 13 crore. From where did they get the money'”

“Can any person who begins life as an LIC agent and shifts to teaching accumulate property worth Rs 41 crore'”

The crowd that had clogged the streets to the grain market roared “no”.

“Then teach him and his party, the BJP, a lesson by throwing them out of Himachal Pradesh and also from New Delhi when the time comes,” Amarinder said.

Amarinder has roped in his wife, Praneet Kaur, an MP, to help Sukriti Kumari, who is related to him. He, however, emphasised that “I have not come here to propagate family rule”.

“I have come here with a sincere desire that Himachalis should realise the harm the BJP government has done to the state. Why is Dhumal creating so much noise after my electricity board officials went to check the factories his family owns in Jalandhar'” Amarinder said, referring to the Punjab state power board’s recent raids.

“On the one hand, he (Dhumal) says he has no property. On the other, he is making allegations against the (power) board’s members (who were) doing their duty. He must come clean and tell the people of Himachal the truth,” Amarinder said.

The Punjab chief minister expressed confidence that the Congress will win by a two-thirds majority. Drawing a parallel between his state and Himachal, Amarinder alleged: “Dhumal has done in Himachal what Parkash Singh Badal has done in Punjab. Both have minted money and invested in other states. And both are allies. Both will have to answer to the people.”

Arjun Singh kept his address shorter than expected. “The BJP candidate here, Hari Narain Singh, has lived up to his development portfolio by not developing the town. The lift meant for the hospital has been installed in his house. I can assure you that after he loses his deposit, he will be forced to crawl to the lift,” he said.

Sukriti Kumari, in a similar short address, alleged that BJP workers had assaulted her family members.

“My son’s hand is in a plaster. They did everything to stop me from contesting the polls. I am thankful to Sonia Gandhi for making me stand for the polls,” she said.

“Nothing can stop the Congress from coming to power. The days of the BJP are numbered.”

People gathered at the venue said they were looking for someone who could replicate Punjab’s drive against corruption. “Paisa bahut khaya hai BJP ne. Magar Himachal mein ab tak koi nahi hai jo iska parda fash kar sake (The BJP is corrupt. But there is no one in Himachal to expose it),” peanut seller Balram said.

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