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At a turn and yet not

At a turn and yet not

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2012: Year of hectic political activity in Himachal

Dec 28 2012, 12:42 IST
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SummaryCongress defeated BJP in recently concluded Assembly elections.

Intense political activity in Himachal Pradesh culminated in the ouster of BJP and return of Congress to power in 2012 which also witnessed some dissidence in both the parties and some landmark judgements with wider political ramifications.

Both BJP and Congress grappled with dissidence and senior leaders vied for supremacy as the state remained in election mode almost throughout the year.

The unrest in BJP reached the climax with senior party leaders like Maheshwar Singh, Shyama Sharma, Mohinder Nath Sofat and Radha Raman Shashtri giving a severe jolt by resigning from the party and floating the Himachal Lokhit Party (HLP) which more or less contributed in BJP's defeat.

Health Minister Rajiv Bindal had to resign in the wake of allegations of corruption, state BJP chief Khimi Ram was replaced by Satpal Singh Satti due to pressure mounted by BJP vice president Shanta Kumar and J P Nadda resigned from Assembly following his election to Rajya Sabha.

The audio CD case continued to haunt Virbhadra Singh and he had to resign from the Union Cabinet, following framing of charges by a special court but he demonstrated his clout and mass support and Congress appointed him as state party president and also asked him to lead it in the polls.

Singh almost single-handedly brought Congress back to power and became chief minister for a record sixth time. He also got a reprieve with a special court acquitting him and his wife Pratibha Singh in the much hyped audio CD case.

The BJP suffered defeat in elections of mayor and deputy mayor of the prestigious Shimla Municipal Corporation as CPI-M won both these posts. However, BJP avenged the defeat winning Shimla Assembly seat and relegating CPI-M to third position.

The benami land deals figured prominently throughout the year and both BJP and Congress accused each other of flouting laws and allowing outsiders to purchase large chunks of land in the state.

The report of the Justice D P Sood Commission to probe benami land deals, indicted the government and suggested scrapping of Apartment Act. It also asked the government to delete section 119 of Tenancy and Land Reforms Act which debarred non-agriculturists from purchasing land, if it was unable to implement it in letter and spirit.

The issue of purchase of tea estate land by Prashant Bhushan for setting up an educational institution and land given to Yoga guru Ramdev in Solan district also made news during the year.

The government passed the amended Lokyukta Bill and appointed retired Supreme Court judge L S Panta as Lokayukta but civil society leaders disapproved of the bill and said it did not meet their aspirations.

In a landmark judgement, the Himachal High Court slapped a fine of Rs 100 crore on Jai Pralash Associates Limited for flouting environmental norms for setting up a cement plant and a captive power plant in Solan.

The court also struck down some provisions of the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2006, (anti- conversion law), terming these as violative of article 14 of the Constitution which guarantees equality before law to all citizens.

The government repealed the Apartment Act of 2005 and decided to incorporate its provisions in Town and Country planning Act as recommended by Benami Land commission which detected 126 cases of violation of section 118 of tenancy and land reforms Act.

The government suffered a setback as its ambitious plan to change police uniform from khaki to blue for image makeover fell flat with the Union government not giving its nod. The uniform was changed in January 2011 but policemen were back in khaki by the end of the year.

The Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association headed by Anurag Thakur, MP and son of former chief minister P K Dhumal, launched a vigorous campaign for getting the sprawling Annandale ground back from the Army but it flatly refused to part with the ground for strategic reasons.

While, the chief minister announced sops for every section of the society and was liberal in accepting the demands of employees and pensioners, power tariff went up by 13 per cent.

More than 200 people including 17 BRO personnel died in major road accidents in the state while excessive rains caused losses to the tune of Rs 350 crore.

The state imposed complete ban on sale of gutka and other tobacco products, signed MOU with Punjab government for construction of the Rs 85 crore Sri Naina Devi-Anandpur Ropeway with a span of 3,751 m and the ambitious Atal free school uniform scheme for providing free uniform to 9,28,365 school students was also launched.

Shimla Municipal Corporation imposed 'green tax' on vehicles registered outside the state for entering Shimla town.

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