Ahead of poll code, Congress on inauguration spree (Himachal Newsletter)

Shimla, March 6: Racing against the time, Congress ministers, both of the central and state governments, were in an inauguration spree in Himachal Pradesh just minutes before the mode code of conduct came into force Wednesday.

One of the central ministers, in fact, had to use technology to lay a foundation stone.

In less than two hours, one central project was inaugurated, while the foundation stone of two others were laid. Likewise, an announcement was made about another central project to the state.

Quite naturally, the government is the target of the main opposition BJP, which has termed the actions politically motivated.

“It’s a black day in the democratic history of the state,” remarked state BJP president Satpal Satti.

Urging the Election Commission to take note of the government’s last-minute bid to woo the common man, he also sought action against the erring officials.

Union Labour and Employment Minister Oscar Fernandes Wednesday morning inaugurated the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) Medical College and Hospital in Mandi, while Union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma laid the foundation stone of a spice park at Nadaun in Hamirpur district via video conferencing.

“The ESIC hospital was inaugurated in haste as there was no water and electricity connection. Even deployment of medical and paramedical staff is yet to be carried out,” Satti told IANS.

Interestingly, Sharma, who was earlier scheduled to reach Nadaun, performed the inauguration ceremony from the Chandigarh airport.

State Congress president Sukhwinder Sukhu went one step ahead to mop up votes.

He announced in Shimla Wednesday that the union health ministry has approved one more medical college for the state on his recommendation.

Sukhu said in a statement that the decision to approve the college in Hamirpur, the home district of BJP leader and two-time chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, was taken by Union Health Minister ghulam Nabi Azad on Tuesday.

Azad, during his visit to the state March 1, announced two new medical colleges at Nahan and Chamba towns, besides two trauma centres and a burns centre in the state.

The union minister was in Mandi to lay the foundation stone of the 100-bed mother-child block at the zonal hospitalto be constructed at a cost of Rs.17 crore.

On the same day, Azad also inaugurated through video conferencing a super-specialty hospital block set up at a cost of Rs.150 crore at the Dr. Rajendra Prasad Government Medical College in Tanda town.

“No provision has been made in the union budget on the opening of medical colleges in Himachal and these announcements are meant only to mislead people,” BJP leader Satti said.

State Industries Minister Mukesh Agnihotri also laid the foundation stone of the Indian Institute of Information Technology at Saloh village in Una district just minutes before the election code came into force.

The names of Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and Technical Education Minister G.S. Bali figured on the foundation stone, but they were in Mandi at the time where Fernandes inaugurated the ESIC hospital.

Agnihotri said the classes would begin from April from temporary accommodation, but the institute’s permanent structure would be ready by 2020.

Parliamentary polls will be held in Himachal Pradesh May 7.

Of the four parliamentary seats in the state, the Bharatiya Janata Party won Shimla (Reserved), Kangra and Hamirpur, while the Congress bagged Mandi in the 2009 elections.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

IANS