Congress veterans in Himachal, Virbhadra and Stokes show united front amid chaos
The veterans’ unusual display of camaraderie comes on a day the ruling party received a major jolt from its rural development minister Anil Sharma, who along with his father and Congress vanguard leader Sukhram, switched over to the BJP’s side.HimachalPradeshElection2017 Updated: Oct 16, 2017 00:03 IST
Amid uncertainty and factional fights in the grand old party, octogenarian leaders chief minister Virbhadra Singh (84) and irrigation and public health minister Vidya Stokes (89) displayed an unusual ‘bonhomie’ at his official residence Oak Over.
The veterans’ unusual display of camaraderie comes on a day the ruling party received a major jolt from its rural development minister Anil Sharma, who along with his father and Congress vanguard leader Sukhram, switched over to the BJP’s side.
Both Sukhram and Anil Sharma had been unhappy over the treatment meted out to them, particularly during Congress’ ‘Vikas se Vijay rally’ in Mandi where AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi blew the conch for the elections. Chief minister Virbhadra Singh did not invite his one-time staunch rival Sukh Ram on to the dais. Anil Sharma too accused the chief minister of cold shouldering him.
“It was an insult to me. Congress rally in Mandi had given preference to insignificant leaders in the party while those who have been dedicated to the party for long were ignored,” Sharma told Hindustan Times.
On Saturday evening, Sharma had tweeted his decision to join the BJP, even as speculations about his family member joining saffron party had been rife.
Stokes and Singh came together for the first time after the CM decided to shift to Theog, an announcement he made just two days ago. Theog is the bastion of Stokes who contested 10 elections and won eight times.
Stokes and Singh sat in the lawns of Oak Over for long but the tension on their faces was evident even though the duo shared some lighter moments. Stokes publically invited Singh to contest from Theog along with other Congressmen. Singh’s son Vikramaditya too was present at the meet where Stokes presented a shawl and a cap to felicitate Singh.
“It’s not for the first time that this is happening. Leaders keep coming and going. This happens more during election time,” Singh said of Sharma’s move to the BJP.
Singh, whose political career spans over 50 years, is fighting his last electoral battle. In so far, he has contested elections from three different assembly segments — Rohru, Jubbal Kotkhai and Shimla rural.
Stokes’ decision to opt out of electoral politics right before polls too has not gone down well with Congress ranks in the area. “Stokes should have consulted with her voters. During her last tour, she was campaigning for herself and announced that she would contest the election. Suddenly, she has offered Virbhadra her seat from Theog,” said Rattan Mehta, a resident of the constituency.