Congress’ Himachal Crisis Deepens, Virbhadra Singh’s Son Quits As Minister

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Compounding the Congress’s problems in Himachal Pradesh, state minister Vikramaditya Singh quit as minister this morning after accusing Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu of overlooking MLAs  and disrespecting his father and Congress’s tallest leader in the hill state, the late Virbhadra Singh.

This comes amid dramatic developments in Himachal Pradesh over the past 24 hours that turned an election for a single Rajya Sabha seat to the Congress government’s fight for survival. The party, which has 40 MLAs in the 68-member Assembly, has now rushed senior leaders Bhupinder Singh Hooda and DK Shivakumar to Himachal for damage control. 

Addressing the media, Mr Singh said the developments in the hill state are a cause for concern. “We need to go into the background and see what led to this situation. I would like to rewind your memory. The 2022 Assembly elections were fought and won under the collective leadership of then Leader of Opposition Mukesh Agnihotri, state Congress chief Pratibha Singh and campaign committee head and current Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu. There is no doubt that the polls were fought in the name of former Chief Minister, late Virbhadra Singh. There was no banner or poster that did not have his photo. A day before the polls, a full-page newspaper ad had his photo with the message, ‘Remember me, vote in my name’. This is a matter of record,” he said.

Incidentally, then state Congress chief and Mr Singh’s mother Pratibha was being seen as a frontrunner for the Chief Minister post before the Congress leadership chose Mr Sukhu.

“In the past one year, I have not said a word on the government’s functioning. But it is my responsibility to the people to speak out now. The post is not important for me. What is important is my relationship with the people of Himachal Pradesh, a relationship of trust,” he said.

“The way the government has functioned, the negligence towards MLAs, the drowning of their voices has led us to this point,” he said.

Mr Singh targeted the Congress government over its functioning and fiscal mismanagement. “This was repeatedly raised with the party high command, but they did not react the way they should have. I have always believed in calling a spade a spade. We raised it on multiple forums, but since I am a disciplined member of the party, I know where to draw the line,” he said.

Mr Singh said the youth of the state backed the Congress. “But are we in a position to fulfil the promises to the youth of the state? That is a question that needs to be thought about,” he said.

Accusing the state government of disrespecting his father Virbhadra Singh, the Congress leader said, “I am saying with a heavy heart that they (state government) could not find a piece of land on Mall Road to install a statue of the person on whose name we formed the government. This is the respect this government has shown to my late father,” he said, fighting back tears.

The Congress government, which held a comfortable majority till yesterday, faces a crisis after six of its MLAs cross-voted in the contest for the lone Rajya Sabha seat yesterday. The rebel MLAs were whisked away to Haryana yesterday, and the Opposition BJP today claimed that the ruling party had lost the mandate to continue in power.

The cross-voting paved the way for the victory of BJP’s Harsh Mahajan in the Rajya Sabha election after a tie, and then a draw of lots, sealed the fate of Congress pick and senior lawyer Abhishek Singhvi. 

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