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Father’s humiliation was intolerable, says ex-Himachal minister Anil Sharma after joining BJP

Less than a month before election, Himachal Pradesh minister Anil Sharma quit Congress and joined BJP.

india Updated: Oct 16, 2017 08:08 IST
Roop Upadhyay
Roop Upadhyay
Hindustan Times, Mandi
Anil Sharma,Himachal Pradesh minister,Virbhadra Singh
Anil Sharma, son of Sukh Ram and a former minister in the Virbhadra Singh cabinet, after joining BJP at his Mandi residence on Sunday.(Birbal Sharma /HT photo)

Animal husbandry minister Anil Sharmainheritedpolitics from his father, former Union minister Sukh Ram, a reckoning force in Himachal politics in 1990s. Sukh Ram was instrumental in the formation of a coalition government with the BJP after he quit Congress in 1998 and formed the Himachal Vikas Congress (HVC) winning five seats in the state assembly. Elected to the Assembly in 1993 for the first time from his father’s assembly segment, Mandi, Anil Sharma kicked up a storm in the Congress as he switched over to BJP ahead of polls. Sharma has accused the Congress of insulting his father, thus forcing him to quit the party.

Why did you quit Congress?

It was not an instant decision. I was humiliated and sidelined in the party for four and half years. My father, a veteran leader, was also insulted during Rahul Gandhi’s recent rally at Mandi, when he was barred from the stage.

You say the party sidelined you. But you were a minister in the government.

See I won the assembly elections in 2012 by a handsome margin but chief minister Virbhadra Singh ignored my seniority and did not offer me ministerial birth. I was inducted only after AICC president Sonia Gandhi intervened. But even after that the humiliation did not stop.

Why you quit right before the assembly polls?

I did not think of quitting until recently, when I found out that my name was missing in the list of members who were part of the state’s campaign committee even as all other cabinet ministers were on the panel. State party chief Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu told me that my name was initially on the list but was later deleted for unknown reasons. I take it as an insult.

Does your father support you in the decision?

Definitely, CM Virbhadra Singh insulted my father Sukh Ram during a party workers’ meet, in front of party’s Himachal in-charge Sushil Kumar Shinde. During Rahul Gandhi’s Mandi rally earlier this month, first they invited him and then when he reached the venue, he was not allowed to share the dias with the leader on Virbhadra’s behest. He had travelled from Delhi to Mandi despite poor health. This humiliation was intolerable.

Will you be comfortable with the BJP after serving the Congress for so many years?

My father formed the HVC whenhe was expelled from the Congress. He entered into a post poll alliance with the BJP and was instrumental in formation of a coalition government that completed a full five-year term. So, I have already worked with the BJP. Moreover, I feel that I will be able to complete the development projects in my assembly segment which I started in the current term, but could not complete due to the hurdles created by chief minister Virbhadra Singh.

Or the shift is just for political survival as Congress is seeing a downfall?

My family has been in politics for over six decades. So there was no such crisis. My decision was propelled because of the continuous insult.

First Published: Oct 16, 2017 08:08 IST