Aging patriarch and five times chief minister Virbhadra Singh is reckoning force in Himachal's poll arena. Known for never say die spirit - Old war Horse Virbhadra Singh’s is fighting last political battle of his political career that has spanned over 50 years. Virbhadra Singh unravels some of the most intriguing questions with Hindustan Times Gaurav Bisht. He says that he compromised with his arch rival Vijay Singh Mankotia only for party’s sake while he speaks of not being vindictive to Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal.
HT: Each time there is an election, you are faced with some or the other allegations. This time BJP is attaching your name to ISPAT group
Virbhadra Singh: They knew all along my potential. They are morally and mortally afraid of me. They want to damage my clear image by launching a false propaganda . During the previous regime also Dhumal tried to frame in false cases. . He tried to frame me in Sagar Katha case which was dismissed by session court and high court . This time also he( Dhumal) has started the same old things. This time again he came up with alleged compact disc case. I was not very keen on this matter. I withdrew my case from high court I did not go to Supreme Court. I went session’s court and I want the charges to be framed and face trial. I requested the court for day to day trial. This case is so absurd even the star witnesses in case have given affidavit to high court – denying that they ever gave any such statement to under section 161 of criminal procedure code. All they went to high court but did not plead that their case should be accepted .Instead they demanded to sent their case to some appropriate court and record statement under CRPC 164.
HT: Can you elaborate further on controversy surrounding ISPAT group?
Virbhadra Singh: So far I am concerned what has appeared in the media is totally false and fabricated. I didn’t remember that during my tenure as Steel minister I met this gentle men more than once . Most important thing is that during my tenure the government did not give any concession to this gentleman. If I had given him some concession than only there is reason to believe that there something wrong. This is clear cut case of money laundering. The gentleman was sending money to through hawala transaction and made factious entries in dairy. What is being referred to VBS that also not true my initials are VB. Entries in diary have directly named, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shiv Raj Singh Chauhan why is the BJP silent on that . If they want to hold any inquiry I m ready to face it. .
HT: You too are often accused of promoting dynastic rule? Your wife remained lok Sabha member. Did you seek ticket for your wife this time?
Virbhadra Singh: Dynastic politics is just the tip of the ice berg. Dynastic politics only comprises molecular of people in country ‘s polity . How many people would be there from dynastic clans in politics. . I was not promoted by anybody in the politics . But I was selected by Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru and Lal hadur Shastri and then by Indira Gandhi. I was asked to stand for Lok Sabha elections from Mahasu parliamentary seat in 1962. This is how I came to politics. I have completed fifty years of life in politics and have always remained in Congress party . I have not left the party under any circumstances. I am not Ayaa Ram and Gaya Ram ..
HT: Did you seek ticket for your wife Pratibha Singh this time?
Virbhadra Singh: Yes I did I was given to understand that she would be given ticket because last time she was denied ticket from Rohru. But I never pressed for it.
HT: Your son Vikram Aditya won the youth Congress organizational elections with huge margin. But inspite of that the elections were declared null and Void. Do you regret that?
Virbhadra Singh: I don’t want to comment on that. That process to conduct elections was a tortal fiasco.
HT: You have been five time chief minister but still you are keen on becoming the party president that too just before the elections?
Virbhadra Singh: That was the feeling of the party that would be able to win.
HT: Your detractors say that Virbhadra Singh blackmailed the high command for becoming party president. Did you ever threaten to leave the party?
Virbhadra Singh: These kind of allegations are simply character assassination. I never ever approach anybody not intentioned to do such. I am in Congress party and will remain the Congress party till my last breath. I was never approached either by the Nationalist Congress party or Trinamool Congress. These two parties have opened their shops during election time . They are distributing tickets in this elections too. Atleast I was never approached by anybody.
HT: You had demanded to declare chief minister ahead of polls. But the experiment failed in Punjab.
Virbhadra Singh: That was my personal opinion.
HT: Has the high command been fair with you?
Virbhadra Singh: I have always abided the high command. I remained one of the most senior ministers in the government. High command had full faith in me. This is reason that I was just sent back to the state just before the elections. What complain I can have
HT: All the time you had differences with senior Congress leaders Vidya Stokes now both of you sunk your differences. What really transpired between you and Stokes?
Virbhadra Singh: I never had any differences with anybody at any time. This time too I am helping everyone around.
HT: Mankotia had acussed of corruption in every nook and corner and now just before the election, you just patched up with him and also attended a joint meeting with him in Shahpur.
Virbhadra Singh: I said it publically in Shahpur(Mankotia's home turf) that Mankotia’s entry in the party is only political compulsion. I have personal differences with him. Inspite of these differences he was brought back in the larger interest of the party. His entry will strengthen party.
HT: Are you confident Congress will form the government?
Virbhadra Singh: It is not a wish list but the predictions are based on my extensive touring interaction with people, response of the people. I know the people of Himachal Pradesh very well. I know what they feel now.
HT: Would you like to be chief minister for the sixth time? What if the high command use you in elections and then dump you? What will you do?
Virbhadra Singh: Party has reposed faith in me before the elections. Why will the high command not trust me after the elections. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, AICC President Sonia Gandhi and AICC General Secretary Rahul Gandhi all of them have reposed faith in me. I have full faith on all of them.
HT: The prevailing anti-Congress mood in the nation could affect party's chances in HP. Your take? What impact diesel price hike and LPG cylinders rationing could have on HP elections?
Virbhadra Singh: People of Himachal Pradesh are wise enough to understand the central government compulsion of raise the liquefied petrol gas. When Congress comes to power we will give subsidy on three LPG cylinders.
HT: You are often accused of being vindictive. What will you do to chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal after the Congress jumps back to power?
Virbhadra Singh: Like him (chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal), I will not be vindictive. Nor will I follow politics of vendetta. The matter of corruption will be thoroughly investigated and we will proceed against corrupt as the per the law.
HT: Do you have any regret?
Virbhadra Singh: Yes I regret that I was approached to join politics. My first reaction was no to politics.. My aim was to get into services and the pursue academic. I rather wanted to be a professor or lecturer. Late Prime Minister Lal Bhadur Shastri convinced me at that time that my generation owes it to the nation. I stanch nationalist with my feeling All three late Prime Ministers Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, Lal Bhadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi pursued to contest elections from Mahasu . I was asked to keep the decision secret. People around me and even at my home was surprised when they heard the announcement on the radio.