Bevy of Central leaders heading towards the poll-bound hill State

The campaign for the coming Assembly elections picked up on Thursday, with a number of Central leaders heading towards the poll-bound Himachal Pradesh and addressing a series of election rallies at different places here. Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi addressed rallies in Lahaul Spiti, Kangra and Solan and Leader of Opposition and senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sushma Swaraj addressed party workers and others at Sundernagar in Mandi district. Rajya Sabha MP Subhashini Ali addressed elections meetings in Shimla and nearby Cheog. The north India in-charge of Trinamool Congress K.D. Singh addressed mediapersons and released his party manifesto in Shimla on Thursday.

In the days ahead, more leaders such as L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Nitin Gadkari and Rajnath Singh from the BJP; and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Anand Sharma and Sonia Gandhi from the Congress; Prakash Karat, Sitaram Yechury, Brinda Karat and Manik Sarkar from the Communist Party of India (Marxist); Mayawati from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP); and Mamata Banerjee and Mukul Roy from the Trinamool Congress are expected to be in Himachal.

Mr. Gandhi, at a rally in Solan, criticised the BJP for creating hurdles to the Food Security and Land Acquisition Bills. Calling it a loss for farmers and not for the BJP, he said the BJP was afraid that if these Bills were passed, it would lose the 2014 Lok Sabha election. He said the BJP government in Himachal had given the land of poor farmers to the outside entrepreneurs.

Mr. Gandhi said the Congress always aimed for the welfare of the poor, downtrodden and underprivileged sections of society and had the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, the Right to Education and the Right to Information.

Ms. Swaraj lashed out at the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government for making an unprecedented hike in the prices of all essential commodities and petroleum products and LPG cylinders. She appreciated Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal’s promise to give free induction heaters to all families in the State to give them a respite from the increased LPG prices.