To consolidate ex-servicemen votes for the Congress, chief minister Virbhadra Singh on Tuesday morningt paid a surprise visit to the sulking chief of the Indian Ex-servicemen League, Major Vijay Singh Mankotia, to pacify him.
Virbhadra, who is on a three-day tour to Kangra to campaign for party candidate Chander Kumar, made a sudden visit to Mankotia’s house at Tiara village in Shahpur and had breakfast with him.
The chief minister pacified the disgruntled leader, who had been accusing the Congress leadership, including the CM, of ignoring him for quite some time. He was even planning to contest the Lok Sabha elections as an independent candidate and was conducting meetings with his supporters to find out their views on the subject.
The meeting between the two leaders holds importance in the wake of a meeting between Mankotia and Bharatiya Janata Party veteran leader and candidate from Kangra Shanta Kumar, which took place more than two weeks ago.
Shanta had met Mankotia at his residence, seeking support in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. After the meeting, speculation was rife that Shanta had invited Mankotia to join the BJP. It was being speculated that Mankotia may join the party anytime.
Though the two leaders had a closed-door one-to-one meeting for over one hour, both had denied having any talks about a possible alliance.
However, the fresh development has come as a relief to the Congress, as the miffed Mankotia could have upset the ruling party’s calculations in Kangra, had he stuck to his plan to contest the elections.
Mankotia said, “The chief minister visited my residence on Tuesday morning and we had breakfast together.”
“The CM admitted that whatever happened in the past few days was due to a communication gap which led to the misunderstanding,” he added. When asked if he will campaign for the party in the Lok Sabha elections, Mankotia refused to comment.
However, he said most of his supporters were from a Congress background, but were annoyed as they felt that their leader was being ignored for the last one year.
He indirectly took on the vice-chairman of the Forest Corporation, who hails from Shahpur and is close to the CM. “Some leaders who have no mass base and are in politics just for personal gain are the reason for the misunderstanding,” said
Mankotia, adding that the CM still recognised his stature in the party.
Asked about the meeting, Virbhadra said it was a courtesy call, adding that Mankotia was a Congressman and would remain one. “He has his own position and stature in the party,” he said.
Both leaders shared the dais later in the evening during a public meeting at Matour in Kangra.
Mankotia had threatened to contest the election as an independent candidate, alleging he was marginalised for last one-and-a-half year since the Congress came to power and was deliberately not invited to All-India Congress Committee vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s meeting with ex-servicemen and rally at Dharamsala on March 20. He had accused Virbhadra of betraying him.
The former minister, who shares a ‘love-hate relationship’ with the CM, is upset that he was not given any recognition since he returned to the party on the eve of the 2012 assembly elections.
Mankotia had contested the assembly elections on Congress ticket from Shahpur and lost by a narrow margin.
Mankotia, against whom Virbhadra had filed a defamation case, was also the one who had released the audio compact disc containing voices of the CM and his wife before the Lok Sabha elections in 2007. Mankotia quit the party that year and both leaders remained entangled in two legal battles until they made peace before the assembly elections.