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4-min read

As Virbhadra Singh, Sukhram Pass Baton to Next Generation, An Attempt to Play ‘Big Brother’

While the sun sets on the careers of the two most experienced politicians in the state, Virbhadra Singh and Pundit Sukhram have set the stage for their heirs apparent - Vikramaditya Singh and Aashraya Sharma.

Ramlal Kondal | News18

Updated:April 11, 2019, 3:23 PM IST
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As Virbhadra Singh, Sukhram Pass Baton to Next Generation, An Attempt to Play ‘Big Brother’
Vikramaditya Singh and Aashraya Sharma at the Congress general house in Mandi on Tuesday.
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Chandigarh:The Congress general house in Himachal Pradesh's Mandi on Tuesday saw the next generation step forward to take up the mantle of leadership.

The event marked a showcase of unity among the party members, particularly those in the Mandi Lok Sabha constituency, and came after the joining of Pundit Sukhram and his son Aashraya Sharma.

The excitement in the air was palpable as most attendees knew that the event would go onto set the political hierarchy in the party for years to come.

While the sun sets on the careers of the two most experienced politicians in the state - 84-year-old former chief minister Virbhadra Singh and 91-year-old former union minister Pundit Sukhram - they have set the stage for their heirs apparent, Vikramaditya Singh and Aashraya Sharma.

Aashraya Sharma’s entry to the party comes after his grandfather, the three-time Lok Sabha MP’s Sukhram’s, long-
drawn-out efforts.

Sukhram had tried to secure a BJP ticket for Aashraya from Mandi but remained unsuccessful in his attempts as the party had some other plans. A distraught Sukhram then chose to make a comeback to the Congress, which he had ditched for the BJP back in 2017. This time he went all out to pave the way for Aashraya’s entry into politics.

Luckily for Sukhram, the Congress, hoping to revive its fortunes in Mandi, agreed to place its bets on Aashraya Sharma.

Even as Sukhram was setting the stage for his grandson in Mandi, Virbhadra Singh, who had once been his bete noire, was busy scripting a victory for his son Vikramaditya Singh.

In the 2017 assembly elections, the former six-time chief minister fielded his son from the Shimla Rural seat, which he had nurtured during his previous term. Singh had campaigned extensively for Vikramaditya, eventually ensuring his victory.

Ever since Sukhram’s re-entry into the Congress, doubts were raised if Virbhadra Singh had really accepted him back into the party’s fold. Although the two were seen hugging each other soon after Aashraya was granted a party ticket, it was too early to predict if the hatchet had really been buried.

Even though he didn’t raise a tantrum, News18 learnt that Virbhadra Singh had been vying for a ticket from Mandi for either himself or his wife Pratibha Singh and son Vikramaditya Singh.

Since Mandi Lok Sabha seat encompasses Sukhram and Virbhadra’s traditional bastions, the old rivals haven’t really been able to ignore the political compulsion of sailing in the same boat. Virbhadra Singh, however, threw-in-the towel and gave Aashraya his blessings.

But, as all good gestures within politics, this one too came at a price.

This wasn't the first time that Virbhadra Singh had made a compromise with Sukhram.

In the past too, whenever Virbhadra contested from Mandi or fielded his wife Pratibha Singh, he did so after parleys with Sukhram. In turn, Sukhram took his pound of flesh during the assembly polls. In 2014, however, when Pratibha Singh lost the LS polls, Sukhram had to bear the brunt.

His exit from the party came three years later in 2017 against the backdrop of Rahul Gandhi’s rally to the Bhiuli.
Sukhram had come from Delhi for the event but was not allowed to share the stage. Enraged over the snub, Sukhram left the Congress and joined the BJP.

Vikramaditya Singh and Aashraya Sharma now have a huge legacy to carry forth. And a grand entry can only help them earn the recognition and respect of their party members.

The Mandi general house of the Congress was one such stage, which provided the much-needed projection to both Aashraya and Vikramaditya.

While it was meant to be Aashraya’s day on Tuesday, with all the party bigwigs and leaders from the Mandi segment present at the event, Virbhadra Singh ensured his son wasn’t overshadowed in the brouhaha.

Interestingly, the father-son duo wasn’t handed a formal invitation till a day before the event, prompting Vikramaditya to take to social media to vent his frustrations.

With suspense over their participation in the party conclave till the last minute,
Virbhadra decided to give the event a miss. His son, however, was seen at the event.

Vikramaditya Singh was given a rousing welcome by Aashraya who offered him a shawl and a Himachali cap. The Raja’s son, in turn, held Aashraya’s hand and raised it in a display of unity.

Although the two young leaders stood shoulder-to-shoulder, Vikramaditya seemed to emerge as the ‘big brother’.
With his hands folded and garlands on his neck brimming to his face, the ‘yuvraj’, popularly known as ‘Tikka’ amongst his followers, acknowledged the grand welcome bestowed upon him.

Vikramaditya Singh took to the dais and spoke about how his father would have liked to attend the event but “unfortunately” could not. With a hint of maturity and an overbearing sense of self-importance, he further said that his father and Pundit Sukhram will ensure Congress’ victory.

Aashraya Sharma, on his part, showered many praises on his new-found “mentor”, who he said “will be visible within if he tears apart his chest", referring to Lord Hanuman’s gesture in the Ramayana.

It is this moment which probably cemented the future hierarchy in this party, and also drew a parallel with the past. While Virbhadra had held office as Himachal Pradesh’s Chief Minister, Sukhram never made it to the helm.
| Edited by: Angana Chakrabarti
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