In Battle Of Prestige, Hamirpur Cheers For Anurag Thakur With Vibrant Roadshow

(MENAFN- IANS) Hamirpur (Himachal Pradesh), May 11 (IANS0 The only noise you will usually hear at the not-so-wide Boota Chowk in this hilly Himachal town is that of horns and the passing traffic.

But Saturday was different, as Hamirpura came alive with catchy poll campaign songs and vibrant dhol groups, standing at some distance from each other, frantically beating their drums in colorful attires.

Young men wearing saffron patkas with lotus prominently figuring on them, some also sporting saffron caps with 'Phir Modi, Phir Anurag' written across, danced to the foot-tapping beats, as hundreds of women dressed to the occasion clapped cheerfully.

The song, dance, and clapping went on for over an hour as the crowd kept pouring in, choking all three sides of the busy crossing.

Then there was a sudden commotion, with the drum beats and 'Jai Sri Ram' slogans reaching a crescendo, turning everyone's attention towards the centre of the Chowk.

It took a while to realise that Union Minister Anurag Singh Thakur had arrived for a roadshow to launch his Vijay Sankalp Yatra from his home turf,

Four-time sitting MP Thakur is the BJP nominee from Hamirpur, which will go to polls with the three other Lok Sabha seats in the state on June 1.

Thakur's young supporters carried him for about 200 metres before the smiling MP climbed onto an open vehicle for the roadshow amid an electrifying atmosphere.

Former Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jairam Thakur and other senior state BJP leaders joined him, as the colourful roadshow concluded with a large public rally.

Thakur was at home, as he made a good mix of the developmental schemes initiated by the Modi government in the past 10 years and the emotive issues -- a series of welfare measures taken by the Centre, the speed and scale of infrastructure development, and the work he did in his constituency.

He had something to tell to each section of the crowd -- the youth, women, farmers, businessmen, and others.

Ram Mandir and redevelopment of Kashi-Vishwanath Dham, Mathura Dham, Mahakal Dham, and Kedarnath Dham interspersed with chants of 'Jai Sri Ram', 'Jai Jai Sri Ram' formj the responsive crowd.

He also made a good mix of national and regional issues, the good work done by the Modi government, contrasting with the lackadaisical approach, and the non-fulfilment of populist promises by the incumbent Congress government in the state.

It was a morale-boosting sight for the BJP and Thakur as the audience turned into a lively crowd, heartily responding and cheering, particularly the women.

Highlighting the sub-nationalist pride of Himachal Pradesh, he connected with the crowd by referring to the state's contributions to national security, and the valour and martyrdom of its people in fighting wars against Pakistan.

It's a fact that the maximum number of Parmavir Chankra -- the highest gallantry award -- holders are from Himachal Pradesh.

It was here that he brought Pakistan into the picture, highlighting instances like former Pakistan Minister Fawad Chaudhary rooting for Rahul Gandhi, or Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar's 'Pakistan has atom bomb' remark to the hilt.

The subtle jibes at the INDI Alliance leaders on similar counts were also received with loud cheers from the crowd.

Thakur won all four previous elections from Hamirpur with impressive margins. However, this election presents him with a fresh set of challenges – first, he is now a Union Cabinet Minister holding two portfolios, Information and Broadcasting, and Sports and Youth Affairs. So the popular expectations from him are higher than ever before.

Secondly, Congress won the last Assembly elections comfortably. Its performance in the Hamirpur parliamentary constituency was also very impressive.

Himachal Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu is the MLA from Nadaun, while Deputy Chief Minister Mukesh Agnihotri is the legislator from Haroli, both falling under the Hamirpur Lok Sabha constituency.

The Congress has fielded former Una MLA Satpal Raizada as its nominee this time. But the story in popular perception lies elsewhere. There are many here who say that this time it is a prestige battle -- Anurag Thakur vs the combined might of CM Sukhu and his deputy Agnihotri.

Thakur's past performance, and the initiatives he took for his constituency, particularly those relating to health, mobile wellness van clinics, women's self-help groups, sporting events, and Bharat Darshan for students, have won him many admirers.

In terms of development, he showcases AAIMS, IIIT, Central University, sports stadiums of all sizes, and the international cricket ground in Dharamsala which surely stands tall by any standards.

So are the highways, the recent rail line expansion, and the running of Vande Bharat Express trains.

Just before the beginning of his roadshow, someone asked him if he thought PM Modi and BJP's target (of winning 400 seats) was too ambitious, pat came the reply from Thakur: "There was a time when 200 was considered an ambitious total in IPL, but now we see scores of 270-280... Some are even thinking beyond. Our target is ambitious, but not unrealistic.”



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