Virbhadra launches campaign in Himachal ahead of by-poll

Shimla, May 14 (IANS) Political activity in Himachal Pradesh has picked up ahead of the announcement of the by-election to the Mandi parliamentary seat.

Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh Tuesday launched the campaign from the remote Bharmour town in Chamba district by holding a public rally.

"In the next few days, he will tour Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti districts (both parts of the Mandi constituency)," a close aide of the chief minister told IANS.

Official sources said the election commission is likely to announce the by-election anytime next week.

Talking to reporters here Tuesday, Virbhadra Singh said that the ruling Congress was ready for the by-election to the Mandi Lok Sabha seat that he vacated after being elected to the state assembly in December 2012.

Party sources said the chief minister's wife Pratibha Singh is keen to recontest from Mandi. She was elected from the seat in the 2004 general elections.

At a public rally in Bharmour, the chief minister had a show of strength with local legislator and Forest Minister Thakur Singh Bharmouri and his "arch rival" Asha Kumari, also a legislator.

"I have represented Mandi parliamentary constituency five times. Many areas of this constituency are in tribal areas and I am aware of their specific problems," he said at the rally.

He said that the government was encouraging private entrepreneurs to construct hydel projects, which would provide employment avenues to the local youth.

The Mandi constituency comprises Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur districts and some areas of Chamba district.