Despite facing corruption charges, wife of Himachal CM Virbhadra Singh and Mandi MP Pratibha Singh’s name has been announced from the Mandi seat. In an interview to Hindustan Times assistant editor Sukhdeep Kaur, Pratibha broke her silence on the allegations saying the level of politics in Himachal has gone too low as the opposition has started hitting below the belt.
Q: Is being the CM’s wife a qualification for getting a ticket to contest elections?
Pratibha: For many years, I have worked for the Red Cross Society. My work for poor and needy patients was the reason I was given a ticket to contest from Mandi. But politics was not my cup of tea, it was circumstances that brought me into it.
Your victory margin in the 2013 bypoll was higher than your husband’s in 2009 from Mandi. Is the CM’s wife more popular?
The CM has served Mandi since 1962 and people still vote for him. When he fought, there was a BJP government at Shimla while I contested the bypoll when the Congress had returned to power. The government in power in the state makes a huge difference. Being a bypoll, we were able to concentrate on one election and all senior party leaders too were free to campaign.
The opposition BJP has levelled serious corruption charges against you and the CM, but you have maintained a stoic silence.
The BJP has only one target in Himachal — Virbhadra Singh. He is a threat to them and they keep levelling allegations against him. The role of the opposition is to criticise but there should be some level to such attacks. It is getting filthier by the day. The level of politics in Himachal has gone too low as the opposition has started hitting below the belt. We are in public life and are answerable to the public, but at least they should first ask us to reply to the charges. Neither the opposition leaders nor did the media bother to get our version.
Do the charges affect you?
I have still to come out of it. At times, I feel it is a compulsion to be in politics. Given a choice, I would have quit then and there. It hits your zeal to work and you constantly question yourself why not sit comfortably at home, watch TV and look after your family.
But your son is being groomed to take on his father’s mantle. Did you want him to enter politics?
We felt humiliated many times and both the CM and I did not want Vikramaditya to enter politics. But he chose politics as a career.
The spoils of power are divided in the ruling family with a CM, an MP and a Youth Congress president — a perfect case of dynastic politics.
Most children take after the profession of their parents. A businessman’s son becomes a businessman. Why should there be a different yardstick for children of politicians? They live in that atmosphere everyday and one day get ready to take on the challenge.
With three full-time politicians, is it politics that dominates discussions at home?
It is the unsaid rule: no discussion on politics happens at home. The CM loves to watch television and we talk about everything but politics.
What have been the challenges of being a wife, mother and a politician?
The children want their mother to be at home. Every work needs attention of the lady of the house. Despite having a home in Shimla, I had to send my kids to a boarding school here. But it did good to them. I have to shuttle between different cities and states to balance my different roles.
What has been the biggest challenge as an MP who is also the CM’s wife?
People’s demands and expectations are higher. Every small community and panchayat in Himachal has a temple and needs funds for their repair and maintenance. The youth demand funds for yuvak mandals. I feel the pressure of these demands as the MPLAD funds are not enough to meet all such demands when basic facilities like water supply and link roads need to be provided.