At a time when the ruling Congress party is facing heat from the Bharatiya Janata Party in the ongoing budget session of the legislative assembly, the apparent unity among Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh's detractors within his Congress party at a private dinner party on Tuesday has become a talking point in the state's political circles. Over a dozen party legislators including three cabinet rank ministers who attended the event sent out a strong signal about the simmering discontent among them.
The legislators gathered last night at the leader's Chaura Maidan residence for the dinner party with the apparent aim of conveying their displeasure to the government. Virbhadra's critics are unhappy over "less preference" being given to their respective constituencies regarding funds for development works.
Sources said the plan to meet at the dinner was kept a closely guarded secret and it was only late in the evening that the dinner plans were conveyed to a group of legislators. Among those who attended were three ministers including health minister Kaul Singh Thakur, social welfare minister Dhani Ram Shandil and transport minister GS Bali who later left for Chandigarh to attend the birthday party of a close friend.
Among the others who arrived for the dinner were Kaul Singh Thakur, who leads the pack of disgruntled MLAs, chief parliamentary secretary Rohit Thakur, Sohan Lal , Rajesh Dharmani, Baijnath MLA Kishori Lal, Dalhousie MLA Asha Kumari, Lahaul & Spiti MLA Ravi Thakur and Nurpur MLA Ajay Mahajan. During the "unofficial" dinner the legislator discussed at the length developmental works in their respective constituencies. "It was just a get together. There's nothing official about it," a Congress party legislator told this reporter.
Upset over the perceived "discrimination" against them, the legislators unanimously decided to take up the matter with the Congress party leadership in New Delhi. They decided to meet All India Congress Committee president Sonia Gandhi to apprise her about the lopsided approach in developmental works.
This is not the first time that Virbhadra's detractors have met at a dinner. Speaker Brij Bihari Lal Butail had earlier hosted a dinner at a private resort in Palampur during a session of the legislative assembly. A "get together" of dissident party members has certainly become a talking point for the leaders of both the ruling Congress party and the opposition BJP. The dinner is being viewed as an affirmation by critics of the CM that all of them were together.
Meanwhile, Virbhadra's troubleshooters swung into action to "pacify" the disgruntled legislators.