In the chronically underdeveloped Shimla Rural segment from where charismatic State Congress chief Virbhadra Singh is fighting elections, corruption appears to be a non-issue after the five-time former Himachal Chief Minister was hit by graft allegations.
Steeped in feudal mindsets, the voters of this vast segment, spread across swathes of barren land, remain conscious of their loyalty to former royals, who are playing the personal and developmental cards to the hilt to win the electoral battle for the family patriarch Virbhadra Singh and his party.
“Raja to raja hain ji....unko kya farak padta hai, woh to jitenge hi” (A king is a king; how is he affected? He will win)”, quips Ram Chand, a local cab driver, when asked what he thought of the recent corruption allegations the BJP had levelled against the Congress veteran. 78-year-old Virbhadra Singh is a former ruler of the Rampur Bushahr family.
Ram Chand’s sentiment finds a resonance across villages when a visiting PTI correspondent criss-crossed this newly carved constituency where Virbhadra Singh has campaigned only once since elections for the 68-member Himachal Assembly were announced.
Confident of romping home to victory in the November 4 polls, the state Congress chief has left his election management to wife Pratibha, a former MP and son Vikramaditya Singh, who are both busy engaging with the locals at a personal level, asking them to oust Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, whom they term as the “outsider”.
Seven candidates are in the fray including BJP’s Ishwar Singh Rohal, Shimla Block Development Committee Chairman and a former BJP councillor Gaurav, now contesting from the Himachal Lokhit Party, a fledgling grouping of BJP rebels.
“No development has taken place here. I have remained unemployed despite being educated. Raja Saheb is the CM candidate. Corruption does not affect his stature. He is safe and we hope he will develop the area,” says 40-year-old Sanjay Kumar after an election rally at Tutu village.