With the death of the 87-year-old veteran, Virbhadra Singh, due to post-Covid complications, an era has ended in Himachal Congress.
Cutting across political parties and ideological hues, Singh’s death has left a big vacuum in the Congress as no other leader enjoyed the mass appeal and clout that he did.
Singh, who dominated the political space in Himachal for almost six decades that saw the Congress stalwart remain a union minister for that long a period, became an MP at the young age of 28 in 1962.
He was elected as the Chief Minister in 1983 for the first time, a feat that he repeated on six occasions.
While putting up an amazing fighting spirit throughout his political career, Singh even defeated the dreaded Covid virus twice before succumbing to it.
Arguably, amongst the tallest Congress leaders in the country, Singh won nine assembly and five Lok Sabha elections, a feat few politicians can boast of in the country. He remained the state Congress President in 1977, 1979, 1980 and 2012 before becoming the chief minister.
However, his stint as the CM in 1998 lasted for a brief period of 18 days after he failed to win a confidence vote as an independent legislator Ramesh Dhawala chose to support Dhumal-led BJP regime.
Though accused of being dictatorial in his functioning, it was his larger-than-life persona that dented any challenge to him from within the party. Born on June 23, 1934, Singh made his entry into politics in 1962.
His political career was dotted with his dogged fights, not just against his opponents in other parties, but even with his own party high command. In 1993, a tenacious Singh took the party high command head on in his battle to become the Chief Minister ensuring that he kept his arch rival Sukh Ram away from the seat despite latter enjoying the support of the then Prime Minister, P V Narasimha Rao. With majority of MLAs on his side, the High command had to relent.
Despite belonging to the royal lineage, his strength was his easy access to the people. He was often welcomed with the slogan “Raja nahin fakir hai Himachal ki takdir hai.”
But he had his fair share of controversies too. His last stint as CM from 2012 to 2017 saw the Congress veteran leader battling against CBI, Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax, who slapped cases against him for alleged disproportionate assets and money laundering. In fact, the CBI raided his house “Holly Lodge” in Shimla in 2015 on the day of his daughter’s wedding. The corruption charges filed against him, his wife and son, are still in various stages of investigation.
In his over half a century-long political career, Singh faced electoral defeat only on two occasions. He had to taste defeat at the hands of former CM Ram Lal Thakur when he lost the assembly election from Jubbal-Kotkhai in 1990 even though Singh made it to the assembly as he had also contested from Rohru. He also lost one Lok Sabha election from Mandi in 1977 at the hands of Ganga Singh of the Janata Party.