Back in HP Congress, Sukhram Buries Decades-long Feud with Virbhadra Singh, Cements Ties with Hug
Virbhadra Singh and Sukhram together form a winning combination in Himachal Pradesh, especially in Mandi, which has become the power centre for the BJP after Jairam Thakur was made the chief minister.
Virbhadra Singh and Sukhram in Delhi on Friday.
Delhi/Chandigarh: From starting their political career together to facing the court of law the two political heavyweights from Himachal Pradesh -- Virbhadra Singh and his bete noire Sukhram -- have seen it all. So it was rare sight when the two shared a warm hug and exchanged pleasantries with each other in Delhi on Friday.
The move comes close on the heels of Sukhram re-joining the Congress recently along with his grandson, Ashray Sharma, for whom he has been seeking a ticket from the Mandi Lok Sabha seat.
While Singh became the chief minister of the state six times, Sukhram, former Union minister for telecommunications, never made it to the helm.
Sukhram, 90, began his political career in 1962 from the Sadar constituency. The same year, Singh started his political innings from the Mahasu seat. In 1971, Singh won the Mandi Lok Sabha seat while Sukhram emerged victorious from the same constituency in 1984, both on Congress tickets. The latter went on to become a minister in the Rajiv Gandhi and Narsimha Rao governments. He represented the Mandi seat in 1991 and 1996.
In 1996, the CBI conducted raids at the Mandi and Delhi residences of Sukhram, who was then the minister of telecommunications in the Narsimha Rao government. He was in London at the time of raids. Cash worth crores was recovered from his houses but he had alleged that the money was placed in his houses on the behest of Singh.
In 1998, relations between the two soured further when Sukhram quit the Congress to float his own party -- the Himachal Vikas Congress (HVC). The HVC won five assembly seats in the ensuing elections and he preferred to support the BJP in forming the Prem Kumar Dhumal government in the state. The coalition remained in power for a full term.
In 2003, after a dismal performance in the assembly polls (he managed to retain the sole Mandi Assembly seat), Sukhram merged his party with the Congress. His son Anil Sharma contested from the Mandi Assembly seat in 2007 and 2012, winning it both the times.
However, he left the Congress again, this time just before the 2017 Assembly elections, and shook hands with the BJP along with his son, Anil Sharma. That time too, the veteran blamed Singh, whose sixth term had just ended, of neglecting him. Anil was a minister in Singh’s last government. The trigger was Rahul Gandhi’s rally in Mandi in October 2017 for which Sukhram reached from Delhi, but was not allowed to share the stage.
Now, days ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, Sukhram has again moved back to the grand old party, taking his grandson, Ashraya Sharma (Anil’s son), along. This time he is vying for a Congress ticket from Mandi for Ashraya.
Virbhadra Singh, a Thakur, and Sukhram, a Brahmin, together form a winning combination in the state, especially in Mandi, which has become the power centre for the BJP after Jairam Thakur was made the chief minister. In 2017, the BJP won 9 out of the 10 assembly seats in Mandi. Congress scored a duck.
Brahmins constitute around 20 per cent of the population in Himachal, while the Rajputs are over 30 percent. The SCs make 25 per cent of the population.
Notably, Singh has a considerable influence in Mandi, with him and his wife representing it on different occasions. Sukhram believes that to sail through in Mandi, it is necessary to have Singh on board. The two seem to have buried the hatchet, for the time being at least.
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