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Vidya Stokes: HP Cong chief with a difference

Himachal Pradesh Congress chief and an Indira Gandhi look-alike, Vidya Stokes has become a major rallying force for Himachal Congressmen due to what many say, a growing proximity with Sonia Gandhi. And it's more than because of her looks.

india Updated: Feb 20, 2003 13:23 IST

Himachal Pradesh Congress chief and an Indira Gandhi look-alike, Vidya Stokes has become a major rallying force for Himachal Congressmen due to what many say, a growing proximity with Sonia Gandhi. And it's not merely because of her looks.

Despite being a former speaker, 77 years of age and an MLA from Theog constituency, she is still considered 'relatively inexperienced' in the field of ground-level active politics. But, she has proved it wrong at every available opportunity.

Her surname 'Stokes' sounds Christian butshe is not. Daughterof late Thakur Amin Chand, she was married to late Lal Chand Stokes, son of the American missionary who introduced apples to HP and adopted Hinduism through Arya Samaj. Thus, she claims to be a Thakur by blood and thus is considered close to the community which has ruled the state for most of the time so far.

As in the case of many prominent political leaders of Himachal Pradesh, corruption charges had been levelled against her too. But Supreme recently cleared her of such charges.

Her perceived differences with Virbhadra Singh, the four-time MP and Congress CM for 12 years, have been the talking point of state Congressmen for many years now. Many Virbhadra supporters openly dub her as a 'B' team of BJP. She is also considered to be on good terms with Sukh Ram, who may again play a vital role govt formation like after 1998 polls.

Despite all the controversies, she is set to lead the Congress fight in the state elections this time, of course with a tacit support of Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi.

First Published: Feb 13, 2003 16:23 IST