Now, the Congress has gone all out to market Brand Virbhadra. Its print ads had so far appeared only a day before or on the day of rallies by Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, with pictures of Virbhadra and Congress Legislature Party leader Vidya Stokes. The current ads are all about Virbhadra, with even Stokes absent.
Stating that other parties need to learn the art of winning a race from the Congress, the party’s in-charge for Himachal, Birender Singh, who has reportedly been seen in the camp of Virbhadra’s detractors, says it was part of a planned strategy. “You don’t run the fastest in the first leg of the race. If you do, then you will be exhausted towards the finish. Which is why we have stepped up publicity in the last few days,” he said.
About Stokes being absent from the latest print ads, Birender says it is the “Virbhadra effect”. “There is a large section of Himachalis who identify with Virbhadra Singh. He is in demand but since he cannot go to every constituency before campaigning ends tomorrow, the party has issued an appeal from him. It should not be construed as other senior leaders being ignored.”
However, unlike in Punjab where Rahul referred to Capt Amarinder Singh as the future CM in an election rally a week before polls, in Himachal the Congress says it will wait till the results. “When we say that a large section of Congressmen are with Virbhadra, we cannot rule out other groups who may favour a different leader. After we get a majority, we will let the elected legislators decide whom they want as their leader. If a majority supports Virbhadra, he will be the CM,” Birender said.
On TV, the Congress ad shows a Himachali complaining about there being no schools in his area, while the BJP ad shows children in uniforms provided under the Atal School Uniform scheme. The Congress shows youths complaining about unemployment; the BJP shows them talking about new jobs. The Congress beams an elderly man complaining of lack of health facilities, while the BJP showcases 108 Ambulances with pictures of Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
In print ads, the BJP contrasts induction cookers with ‘Congress’ LPG and showcases villages lit up with CFL bulbs. On radio, the chief minister recounts the “UPA’s scams”. The Trinamool, meanwhile, asks Himachalis to vote for basic rights.