Sukh Ram’s silence stirs disquiet in Congress

With still two days left for Delhi’s special CBI court to pronounce the quantum of sentence for former union minister Sukh Ram...

Written by Ashwani Sharma | Shimla | Published: February 23, 2009 5:05 am

With still two days left for Delhi’s special CBI court to pronounce the quantum of sentence for former union minister Sukh Ram,who has been convicted in a 13-year old corruption case,the political stance taken by the senior Congress leader is worrying the state’s Opposition.

Till a week ago,the Congress was quite confident turning the tables on the BJP in the upcoming parliamentary polls to avenge the 2007 assembly poll defeat. By projecting former chief minister Virbhadra Singh as potential winner from Mandi parliamentary constituency,the Congress had given the BJP some anxious moments.

However,admits the state BJP general secretary,Khushi Ram Balnatah: “The court order against Pandit Ji is going to significantly change the poll scenario in Himachal Pradesh,particularly in Mandi. If Sukh Ram choses to stay home and opt out of the campaign,the BJP will definitely have an advantage.”

The BJP leader,however,feels that Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal should prod Sukh Ram to come out with names of those Congress leaders,who he claimed had conspired against him in the corruption case.

It’s not unknown to many political observers that Sukh Ram had always been attacking Virbhadra Singh,when he had formed the Himachal Vikas Congress to see him (Virbhadra Singh) voted out of power. And that is what happened in 1998 elections when HVC played a major role in dethroning the Congress from the seat of power.

“Pandit Ji had offered to support the Congress if Virbhadra Singh was not projected as the chief ministerial candidate. Since that was not acceptable to the Congress,Sukh Ram embraced the BJP for state’s first coalition government,which lasted for five years,” recalls a former HVC leader,who was Sukh Ram’s close confident.

Though Sukh Ram was back in the Congress in 2004 — ahead of the Lok Sabha polls,he had chosen to maintain a low profile by not accepting any post. He had been waiting for the CBI cases to be settled before he could bounce back. Nevertheless,his base in Mandi district,a parliamentary constituency,has remained intact.

PCC chief Kaul Singh Thakur,however is putting up a brave front. “We will approach Sukh Ram for support in the election”,he adds.

The BJP has already announced the name of Maheshwar Singh,a former MP from Mandi,and party’s strongest choice here remains Virbhadra Singh. But if Sukh Ram intensifies his attack against “unnamed” party leaders,things may become tough for the Congress.

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