Himachal Congress legislators knock on Sonia’s door

Shimla: Not too sure of an anti-incumbency wave carrying them to victory in the upcoming Himachal Pradesh assembly elections, opposition Congress legislators have knocked on party president Sonia Gandhi’s door.

They are trying to end the tussle for supremacy among senior leaders for ousting the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the polls.

“We request the party high command to bring the senior Congress leaders under one roof so that the corrupt BJP government could be uprooted in the polls,” said a communique to Gandhi signed by 18 of the 23 Congress legislators.

The legislators, mainly five, are trying to hammer out a solution to ‘political differences’ among five-time chief minister and union minister Virbhadra Singh, Congress legislature party leader Vidya Stokes and state party president Kaul Singh Thakur.

“Everyone in Himachal Pradesh is fed up with the BJP rule. Senior Congress leaders in the state must put up a united fight against the BJP with assembly polls around the corner,” the letter said.

The five young legislators – Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, Subhash Manglet, Sudhir Sharma, Rajesh Dharmani and Rakesh Kalia, popularly known as peace missionaries – have started “conciliation” among the seniors.

They were in New Delhi April 17 to hand over the letter and convey their concern over ‘infighting’ to the party’s top functionaries.

Besides the five, the signatories to the letter included Kuldeep Pathania, Nand lal, Sohan lal, Anil Sharma, Nikhil Rajour, Lakhwinder Rana, Harshwardhan Chauhan and Yog Raj.

Sukhu said most of the legislators are convinced that “it is high time for them to unite and throw out the BJP jointly”.

“Our first priority is to come to power and then the issue of our leader (chief minister) will come. If we remain divided, we would remain out of power like in Punjab,” he added.

A senior party functionary, requesting anonymity, said the newly formed group comprising Kaul Singh, legislator G.S. Bali and party leader Asha Kumari have impressed upon the party high command to replace warhorses Virbhadra Singh and Stokes and “cultivate new leadership”.

“When union minister Anand Sharma, on a daylong official visit to the state, was in Palampur, the trio (Kaul Singh, Bali and Asha Kumari) tried to get political mileage by converting that official function into a party rally. On the same day, Virbhadra Singh had proved his credentials by a virtual parade of strength of 14 legislators at an informal function in his residence (in Shimla),” a party leader said, adding “Virbhadra is still a mass leader and can’t be ignored in state politics”.

Stokes said the initiative taken by the five legislators was a good step.

“They held consultations with me, Kaul Singh and even Virbhadra. We all have agreed to sink differences. Otherwise, we should be ready to sit in opposition for another five years,” she added.

Interestingly, Vidya Stokes and Virbhadra Singh, who were believed to be archrivals, have of late joined hands and have been seen in political rallies together.

Virbhadra Singh has been critical of his own party leaders. He has been saying the state leaders, especially Kaul Singh and Bali, have failed to take the Prem Kumar Dhumal government head-on. He even accused them of playing a “friendly match” with the BJP.

He has been holding public rallies even without taking the state party chief into confidence, saying he’s at the disposal of the high command. Whatever responsibility he is given, he will do that.

Elections to the 68-seat assembly are due in October this year.


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