Will Congress now dump Virbhadra’s claim for Himachal CM ?

Shimla: Union Minister Virbhadra Singh, who had resigned from the government today in the wake of a local Court decision that had framed corruption charges against him, is still backed by his party on the grounds that he would come out clean of the allegations and the verdict has already been challenged in the higher Court.

Senior congress leaders Janardan Dwivedi, Ambica Soni and many other leaders have said that only charges have been framed. Virbhadra has not been convicted, they maintain.

On the other hand Virbhadra, says that he did not resign under any pressure and was ready for a two front battle to fight the cases legally and politically in the peoples court, even though he has already laid grounds to be declared as the party’s chief ministerial candidate.

Virbhadra supporters say that they are only waiting for a formal announcement from the party high command.

But now with the stigma of facing corruption charges, will the high command still project him as the party leader is a million dollar question his desperate supporters here are asking here.

“We do not want our leader to be used by the party for just wining the assembly elections and then dumped in the corner”, they said. “We want a categorically assurance from the party and senior leaders in this regard.”

So far only the party’s media handlers have upheld Virbhadra’s actions and not many other senior leaders have come forward in his support.

In contrast, Pradesh Congress Committee officials say that it would not be wise to declare a leader facing corruption charges as the party’s choice for chief minister.

This would give enough ammunition to the ruling BJP which has already launched its’ “mission repeat” programme in the hill State and might strike back on the very issue of corruption against the opposition Congress itself, Virbhadra’s detractors in the party say.

A big group within the Congress party that has failed to come up because of the soaring presence of Virbhadra from last 25 years are now more desperate to keep him away from state politics than even the BJP or any other political party.

This group, many of whom put up a presence at his birthday celebrations here just two days ago, are trying to convince AICC that this is the right time to compulsorily retire the veteran Congressman who has had enough of a political innings.

Virbhadra a shrewd politician who had faced former strong Congressmen like Ramlal Thakur and Sukhram for the top slot in the state, is also aware of the adverse intentions of his opponents in the Centre and State.

Members from his inner circle say, “The veteran leader may spring a surprise in the coming few days as he commands a strong backing from the people on the ground.”

Though leaving the Congress party after spending five decades in it is a difficult option but Virbhadra could join Sharad Pawar’s NCP – an UPA ally party to remain within the Congress fold; or breakaway to form a regional outfit of his own.

A big breakaway section of BJP, the Himachal Lokhit Party with a backing from old guard Shanta Kumar and many Congressmen are impatiently waiting on the sidelines for a signal from the veteran leader as the state gears up to hold elections in October – November.

KY Singh is a political observer and a senior journalist with an interest in a diverse set of issues related to Himachal Pradesh and other mountain states. He lives in Shimla.

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