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Virbhadra and His Minister Argued on Stage While Rahul Addressed Rally in Himachal

In Nagrota, the constituency of GS Bali who is seen as Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh's rival within the Congress, Bali's supporters shouted slogans against Singh and demanded that Bali should be made the next Congress Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh.


Updated:November 7, 2017, 5:55 PM IST

New Delhi: After the election campaign in Gujarat, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi headed to the hills on Monday and addressed three back-to-back rallies in Paonta Sahib, Nagrota Bagwan and Chamba. However, a video of Himachal Pradesh CM and state Transport Minister GS Bali apparently arguing on stage even as Gandhi was speaking has raked up controversy in the hill state.

In Paonta Sahib and Chamba, the Gandhi scion was accompanied by the state's 83-year-old CM Virbhadra Singh. While Singh was not scheduled to go to Nagrota, the constituency of GS Bali who is seen as Singh's rival within the Congress, he did so reportedly on the Congress VP's insistence.

Virbhadra was asked to speak just before Rahul Gandhi took the podium. However, during his speech the CM was interrupted by supporters of Bali, the local MLA. Bali's supporters shouted slogans against the CM and demanded that Bali, instead, be made the next Congress Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh.

As the slogans went on, an irate Virbhadra Singh was seen chastising the crowd. “Bachchon, anushasan seekho zara! Jab koi bol raha hota hai, naare nahi lagaye jaate. Kya samajh rakha hai aap logon ne (Kids, learn a little discipline! When someone is speaking, you shouldn’t shout slogans. What are you people thinking?)?"

He looked visibly irritated in the video and cut short his speech by saying, “Jai Hind, Jai Himachal”. It was then Rahul Gandhi’s turn to take the podium but Virbhadra, who sat down next to Bali, was not pleased. Bali can be seen trying to pacify the CM but Virbhadra seems disinterested in what his cabinet colleague has to say. Bali then makes a phone call during Rahul Gandhi’s speech but the CM pushes his hand away from his arm rest.

While Bali is said to enjoy the confidence of the Congress high command, Rahul Gandhi is also aware that they can ill afford to alienate Virbhadra Singh, the Congress's tallest leader in the state and a popular figure particularly among the influential Rajput community. Perhaps, that is why, even as Virbhadra and Bali were seen arguing on stage, Rahul Gandhi wasted no time in praising the state's Chief Minister. "Indira Ji used to say that there are two kinds of people – those who work and those who talk. There is a lot of competition in the second category because there are many people who just talk. But Virbhadra Ji is in the first category. He knows how to work for his state," the Congress heir apparent said at the rally.

Tuesday was the last day of campaigning in the Himachal Pradesh assembly elections. While the Congress has reposed its faith in incumbent CM Virbhadra Singh, the BJP has pitted two-time Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal against him.

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| Edited by: Bijaya Das
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