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Cotton stamp on leadership

Four Congressmen who belong to different schools of politics come from the same alma mater. Gaurav Bisht reports.

india Updated: Oct 18, 2012 19:07 IST
Gaurav Bisht
Gaurav Bisht
Hindustan Times

Four Congressmen who belong to different schools of politics come from the same alma mater.

Founded in 1859, Bishop Cotton is the one of the oldest public boarding schools in Asia. From science to writing, its alumni wrote new chapters of achievement.

Applying their primary lessons in leadership, old boys of the school now make their presence felt in the latest assembly elections.

Four old Cottonians, all in the Congress, are in the electoral fray this time.

Five-time chief minister Virbhadra Singh, one of the most known faces from the hill state in the country's polity, is in the last battle of his political career that spans more than 50 years.

From Colonel Brown School in Dehradun, he had moved to Bishop Cotton, and studied there until 1951, excelling in academics and debate competitions.

Old house captain of Ibbetson, Virbhadra first ran for parliament seat in 1962 and became the youngest MP at 25.

After holding many important portfolios in the Indira Gandhi national cabinet, he became the chief minister of the state in 1983.

Retired major Vijay Singh Mankotia, another alumnus of the school, held the sword of honor in the Indian Military Academy graduation parade. Since 1982, he has contested eight state elections.

The man who was one of Virbhadra's main detractors for the past four years patched up with him days before the elections and re-entered the Congress to contest from Shahpur.

Rohit Thakur, grandson of former chief minister Thakur Ram Lal, left Bishop Cotton in 1992, and was elected to the assembly for the first time in 2003. This is his third election.

Former deputy mayor Harish Janartha, one of the top athletes in school and also its former captain, is running in his first election to the Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha, as Congress candidate from the state capital.

Old students in elections are Cotton's pride. "It is heartening to find old boys in the contest," said school headmaster Christopher Robinson.

"At a time when the country is fighting corruption in politics, I hope the Cottonians in the poll will remember the school motto of 'overcome evil with good'."

History speaks
On July 28 1859, Bishop George Edward Lynch Cotton founded the school.

A scholar of Westminster and a graduate of Cambridge, young Cotton is spoken of as the "the model young master" in the famous Thomas Hughes book Tom Brown's School Days, which gives an insight into school life at Rugby.

Steeped in tradition, where the discipline is hard and conditions Spartan, the school has been the nursery of 16 political leaders who sat in the parliament and assemblies of England, Canada, Malaysia, and Nepal.

An equal number were elected to the Parliament and state assemblies. Bishop Cotton School has produced many great writers as well.

First Published: Oct 18, 2012 19:05 IST