Regaining power in Himachal Pradesh has emerged as a challenge of sorts for five-time chief minister and state Congress president Virbhadra Singh. With the Bharatiya Janata Party is levelling one allegation one after the other against him, the 78-year-old Congress veteran is fighting a lonely battle.
At the time when the election campaign is at the peak, Virbhadra Singh is embroiled in another controversy. This time, questions are being raised about his income tax returns that had made the headlines. Singh had blamed the BJP for orchestrating, what he terms as a malicious campaign against him. Amid the fresh controversy, Singh finds himself alone as no big Congress leader has come to defend him against the attack of BJP. There is battery of leaders from All India Congress Committee camping in Shimla, including AICC general secretary Chaudhary Birender Singh, who is in charge for the party affairs in Himachal Pradesh.
At Wednesday's press conference, as Virbhadra Singh faced a barrage of questions on the latest round of allegations against him, but not a word came in his defence from AICC general secretary Birender Singh Chaudhary and AICC secretary Manish Chatrath. "I am not weak person who cannot defend himself," Virbhadra Singh replied when asked about the party's support. Singh, however, quickly expressed gratitude to the central leaders for their backing. "AICC spokesman has clarified on the issue. What else I want?" said Singh.
But it also remains a hard fact that none of the Congress stalwarts, including Congress legislature party leader Vidya Stokes, have come to his defence. There has not been a word even from Virbhadra Singh's trusted aides, including party office-bearers, who had always surrounded him at party offices, his residence and even in public functions.
What is surprising is that none of the big-time supporters of Virbhadra Singh have openly defended him in the media. Allegations against Singh may have come much to the dismay of his supporters, but the fact remains that he also has a long list of detractors in the party. The latest round of allegations will definitely fuel the campaign of Virbhadra Singh detractors against him.
Union commerce minister Anand Sharma who was recently in the state capital for releasing the party manifesto ducked queries related to allegations against Singh.
Controversies have followed Singh throughout his political career spanning over 50 years. But never has the veteran leader found himself alone this way. Remaining in public is Virbhadra Singh's biggest asset. A fighter to the core, whenever Singh has found himself embroiled in a controversy he has always taken the battle to the public.
This time, too, Singh is confident that public will support him at this critical juncture. "I leave my fate to the people of the state. They have full sympathy with me. These weird allegations against me are only building public sympathy for me," is how Singh reacts to the allegations of corruption.
Virbhadra Singh campaigns hectically, crisscrossing the state in a chopper hired by the Congress. Like other Congress stalwarts in the state, he has toured his constituency Shimla Rural only once.