Leaders across the political spectrum paid rich tributes to former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh, who died in Shimla early Thursday, and remembered him as a stalwart who was committed to serving the people in his long political career. President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and several chief ministers and union ministers were among those who remembered the veteran leader.
The 87-year-old Singh was a six-time Himachal Pradesh chief minister, nine-time MLA and five-time MP and former union minister. President Kovind noted that Singh's long political career was marked by his commitment to serve the people of Himachal Pradesh. In a tweet, the prime minister said, "Shri Virbhadra Singh Ji had a long political career, with rich administrative and legislative experience. He played a pivotal role in Himachal Pradesh and served the people of the state. Saddened by his demise. Condolences to his family and supporters. Om Shanti".
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh in a letter to Virbhadra Singh's wife Pratibha Singh said he left a big vacuum in the Congress, "as no other leader enjoyed the mass appeal and clout that he did". "Amongst the tallest Congress leaders in the country, Shri Singh won nine Assembly and five Lok Sabha elections. He served as six time chief minister and also a union minister. Despite belonging to the royal lineage, his strength was his easy access to the people. In his death our country has lost a mass leader and an able administrator," the former PM said.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi described him as one of the tallest stalwart in the party and said the veteran leader leaves behind a legacy of service rendered for nearly six decades to the people of Himachal Pradesh and the nation. "Popular for his affable and grounded nature, he remained close to people and brought about far reaching positive changes through his administrative acumen," she said in her condolence message.
"He was one of the tallest stalwarts of the Congress Party and remained a dedicated Congress person throughout, she said. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi described Singh as a stalwart, and said his commitment to serve the people was exemplary till the end.
A number of union ministers including Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari expressed their condolences on Singh's demise. BJP chief J P Nadda also sent his condolences. In a tweet, Rajnath Singh said, "Deeply anguished by the demise of former CM of Himachal Pradesh, Shri Virbhadra Singh ji. He was a political stalwart and an able administrator who made noteworthy contributions to public life and welfare of the people. My condolences to his family and supporters. Om Shanti." Condoling the demise of Virbhadra Singh, Gadkari said he will always be remembered for his service to the nation.
Chief ministers of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, West Bengal Himachal and Delhi also condoled the demise of the veteran leader. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said she was "deeply saddened at the demise of Shri Virbhadra Singh Ji. A seasoned politician, his loss leaves a void in the political domain. My sincere condolences to his family, loved ones and supporters". Describing the former Himachal chief minister as an able administrator and a gentleman who was loved by the people, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said Virbhadra Singh was not just an elder brother but also a mentor to many to us.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said Virbhadra Singh's contribution to the party and in serving people would always be remembered. Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama also condoled the death of the former Himachal Pradesh chief minister. Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra termed the former Himachal chief minister's death as an irreparable loss.
"Possessing the political stature as the giant mountains, Virbhadra Singh took Himachal Pradesh to new heights. We all have suffered an irreparable loss due to his death. May God grant him a place in his feet. My humble tributes," Vadra said. Former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda said he was saddened by the loss.
"I am heartbroken on hearing the news of the death of my friend, six-time chief minister and former union minister Virbhadra Singh. I shared a personal relationship with Virbhadra ji, who was a good human being and was very affectionate. My heartfelt condolences to his family and supporters. Glowing tributes," Hooda said in a tweet in Hindi. Congress leader and former union minister Anand Sharma said he was deeply saddened by Singh's demise, saying the Congress has lost a veteran and popular leader who provided inspiring leadership to generations of party workers.
"The indefatigable fighter has lost the brave battle for life. Himachal has lost its leader who, in his illustrious career spanning nearly six decades made a rich and lasting contribution to the development of Himachal" Sharma, who hails from Himachal, said. Other leaders who condoled his death include Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, former union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Haryana Congress chief Kumari Selja and Rajya Sabha MP Pratap Singh Bajwa.