As the political temperature rises in the cool climes of Himachal Pradesh, corruption charges against top leaders of the principal parties -- Congress and BJP -- are heating up the campaign in the battle for the four Lok Sabha seats going to polls on May 7.
With newbie Aam Aadmi Party making its foray into the hill state raising the now-familiar anti-corruption slogan and contesting all the seats, neither Congress nor BJP are wasting time in pointing fingers at each other.
Although no charge has been formally pressed till date, Congress is targeting BJP's P K Dhumal, former Chief Minister, and his son Anurag Thakur, for alleged corrupt practices, while BJP is hitting back at Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who is under a preliminary enquiry by CBI for alleged corruption.
"BJP is targeting him (Singh) just to avoid focus on its own misdeeds. It is only now, when the government agencies are closing down on their (BJP's) corrupt practices, that they have started raising such issues," Himachal Pradesh Congress spokesperson Subhash Manglate told PTI.
Singh has been accused of granting favours in return for unsecured loans obtained by his wife and children from some private companies.
Defending the chief minister, Manglate further said, "He has got a clean chit from the courts whenever corruption allegations were made against him. People of the state have faith in him and he has been delivering on the promises." BJP, however, is taking none of it, and alleging that the Congress-ruled state is plagued with corruption and people would 'punish' the party.
"The last 15 months of the Congress government has seen a lot of corruption. There are charges of corruption even on the chief minister. The government has not been able to fulfil any of the expectations of the people," Himachal Pradesh BJP Chief Spokesperson Ganesh Dutt said.
When asked about allegations of corruption against Dhumal and his son Thakur by Congress, Dutt said, "This has been done just to shift attention from the issue of CBI questioning Virbhadra Singh. The decision on the HPCA land lease was jointly taken by the cabinet, so to blame P K Dhumal for that is totally wrong."
Earlier this month, state Governor Urmila Singh had granted sanction to prosecute Dhumal in a case involving land allotment to the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA).
While corruption is hogging the limelight in the state, other issues are, however, not forgotten.
According to Manglate, Congress is banking on work done by UPA government like the passage of Food Security Bill and introduction of RTI among others to "win all the seats in the state", which will go to polls on May 7.
Brushing aside the so-called Modi wave as a 'media creation', Manglate said it won't negatively impact Congress' chances in the state.
Dutt disagreed completely and said "people are going to punish Congress due to failure on all accounts" and added that they were unhappy with continuous price hike and even the UPA government's handling of the beheading of an Indian soldier in J&K by Pakistan army last year.
Congress, which came to power in the state in 2012, has fielded Pratibha Singh (CM Virbhadra Singh's wife) from Mandi, Mohan Lal Bragta from Shimla, Chander Kumar from Kangra and Rajinder Rana from Hamirpur.
On the other hand, BJP has put up Shanta Kumar, a former Chief Minister and Union Minister from Kangra, Ram Swaroop Sharma from Mandi, Virender Kashyap from Shimla and Anurag Thakur from Hamirpur.
AAP has announced that sitting BJP MP Rajan Sushant from Kangra will be its candidate for the seat and Kargil martyr Vikram Batra's mother Kamal Kanta Batra will contest for the party from Hamirpur. It is yet to announce candidates for the remaining two seats.
Currently, three out of four parliamentary seats in the state are represented by the BJP and one by Congress.