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How Sukhram and Family’s ‘Homecoming’ Will Help Congress Prospects in Himachal Pradesh and Beyond

Sources say that Sukhram's grandson Ashray is in all likelihood going to be Congress' candidate for the Mandi Lok Sabha seat but the Central Election Committee of the party is yet to announce its decision formally.

Suhas Munshi | News18.com

Updated:March 25, 2019, 5:55 PM IST
How Sukhram and Family’s ‘Homecoming’ Will Help Congress Prospects in Himachal Pradesh and Beyond
Rahul Gandhi welcomes former union minister Sukhram into Congress party. (Photo: INC/Twitter)

New Delhi: Former telecom minister Pandit Sukhram Sharma joined Congress along with his grandson Ashray Sharma on Monday.

Senior Congress leader and party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala while introducing Sukhram and his grandson at a press conference, also dropped a hint that Sukhram's son (and Ashray's father) Anil Sharma, who is currently the power minister in BJP government in Himachal Pradesh, could also join Congress soon.

Sources say that Suk Ram's grandson is in all likelihood going to be Congress' candidate for the Mandi Lok Sabha seat but the Central Election Committee of the party is yet to announce its decision formally.

The shift of three generations of the Sharma family, whose stronghold is Mandi, from BJP back to Congress, could impact the party's prospects in Himachal Pradesh and beyond. Only nine days ago, another upper caste leader, senior BJP member BC Khanduri's son, Manish Khanduri, also joined Congress' Uttarakhand unit.

Surjewala, while announcing the inclusion of soon-to-be 93 year-old Sukhram attacked the BJP for effectively putting the curtains on the political career of "BJP's bhishmpitahmaah", the 91 year-old Lal Krishna Advani.

"These [BJP leadership] are the sort of people who sidelined the same person who taught politics to Narendra Modi...on the other hand there is the Congress party which is offering respect to its seniors today," Surjewala said.

In his interaction with the press, Sukhram, who is credited with bringing telecom revolution in India (though he was later accused of being involved in 'telecom scam' and forced to part ways with the Congress following CBI raids), described his move of joining Congress as a "homecoming".

Born in 1927, Sukhram has enjoyed a fair share of responsibility at the centre, having, at different times, held MoS portfolios of defence production and supplies, planning and food and civil supplies, and communications.

He is also said to have come close to being the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh but his chances were scuttled at the last moment by Virbhadra Singh.

In '97 he went on to found his own party - Himachal Vikas Congress - which was merged with the Congress in '04. Anil Sharma served as the rural development minister in Virbhadra government.

Sukhram again revolted and joined the BJP along with his son and grandson just before state elections, in October '17. Under the present Jairam Thakur dispensation, Anil Sharam was given the power portfolio.

The three generations of Sukhram family also wield considerable influence among the upper caste voters, which make for more than half of the electorate in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

Political power in Himachal has more or less been shared between Thakurs and Brahmins. Brahmins have played role of kingmakers in Himachal, though the chair of CM went to Thakurs every time - starting from Yashwant Singh Parmar, Himachal's first CM, to Jairam Thakur to the present CM - except for a brief period when BJP's Shanta Kumar, a Brahmin, assumed the top role.

But Brahmins have thrown up central political leadership in form of former Union commerce minister Anand Sharma, and the present Union Health Minister JP Nadda.

Apart from helping his party fetch upper caste votes, the re-entry of Sukhram in Congress is also likely to be played out in current battle of perceptions with the BJP, to counter the damage done by the entry of some senior Congress leaders, Tom Vaddakkan being the most recent case, into BJP's folds.

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| Edited by: Aakarshuk Sarna
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