Political storm in Himachal averted

Shimla: Ahead of the Mandi parliamentary by-election in Himachal Pradesh, a political crisis sparked by the purported resignation of a Congress minister who was miffed with Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh withered away in less than 24 hours.

Transport Minister G.S. Bali, who sent his resignation to the party leadership in New Delhi Wednesday, backtracked very soon and said that he had merely apprised the party leadership on some public issues.

The septuagenarian chief minister, known for his political skills, said: “I have not received his resignation. If he was serious on quitting the cabinet, he would have addressed his resignation to me.”

At the same time, he asked Bali, who is not new to controversies, to return to work.

In 2007, Bali had to resign from Singh’s cabinet following a “sting operation” by a TV channel that showed him dancing with bar girls at his birthday bash.

“I hope better sense will prevail and he will withdraw his resignation,” Singh told.

But the sulking minister is still harbouring a grudge. He told reporters in Shimla Thursday that he was going on “long leave”.

Political observers say the chief minister has stumped Bali — politically.

“Virbhadra Singh has handled the first crisis in his five-month government very deftly and silenced his critics, who say age has caught up with him,” a Congress leader said.

“The timing of Bali’s resignation is not proper as the Mandi by-election is around the corner,” the chief minister said.

He termed Bali’s “resignation” a “political manoeuvre” aimed at changing his portfolios.

Party sources said Bali was unhappy with his portfolios.

“I allotted portfolios after keeping in mind the capabilities and experience of ministers. He (Bali) has been allotted two important portfolios (transport and civil supplies),” said Singh.

“He is building pressure to get the health and family welfare portfolios, which are with Kaul Singh. I am not going to bow under any pressure,” the chief minister said.

Singh said that even the state party in-charge Birender Chaudhary had no information about Bali’s resignation.

Bali reportedly submitted his resignation to Ahmed Patel, political secretary to Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Bali has refused to comment on his resignation.

“I am happy with my portfolios and never asked the chief minister for a change of portfolios. I am going on a holiday,” he told reporters a day after “quitting” the cabinet.

Popularly known as ‘Raja saheb’, as he was born into the erstwhile royal family of Bushahr, the chief minister took oath for a record sixth stint Dec 25, 2012.


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