Refusing to toe the line adopted by CM Virbhadra Singh’s loyalists — of projecting his as party’s face for the forthcoming election — Himachal Transport Minister G S Bali on Tuesday said that Congress will fight the Assembly poll under the leadership of party president Sonia Gandhi. “Rajya mein agla chunav Sonia Gandhi ki adhyakshta mein hi lada Jayaega (Next elections in the state will be fought under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi),” said Bali in Shimla.
While he praised Virbhadra Singh, a six-time CM, as Congress’s tallest leader in the state, he was quick to endorse the theory of “collective leadership” as put forth by PCC president Sukhwinder Sukhu, whose removal has already been sought by the CM. The senior Kangra leader, however, ducked all questions about rumours of him joining the BJP and declined to open his cards before August 17, when he has planned a show of strength at Nagrota Bhawan, his constituency.
Bali’s changed stance has come after CM’s decision to remove Major (retd) Vijai Singh Mankotia as vice-chairman of HP Tourism Board and it signals fresh trouble for him in the poll-bound state, where the BJP has already begun an aggressive campaign. On Monday, Bali had skipped the MLAs’ lunch meeting with opposition’s presidential nominee, Meira Kumar, to spend time with Mankotia.
A day later on Tuesday, he praised the organisation (led by Sukhu) for doing a great job in reaching out to the masses in the state over the past few months. Interestingly, Bali chose a Hotel Combermere, instead of government secretariat’s committee room — a usual a venue of press conferences, for his media interaction and came without any “official” team. He also added that the growing rift between the party and the government was unfortunate during election time.
“Both the government and party have their own roles to play but this is not happening,” he said Asked about corruption charges against the CM, Bali said: “The matter is sub-justice. Chief Minister has not exhausted all his legal options. Secondly, it’s an individual decision whether to resign or continue on the post. No one can suggest what CM should do under the his circumstances.”
About his meeting with Mankotia, he added: Asked about his meeting with Mankotia ,and a joint stroll on the Mall road, he said “ Mankotia is a neighbour from Kangra. When the neighbourer is in the trouble, it is your duty to reach out and boost his morale. I also shared my mann-ki-baat with Mankotia…” Bali, however, added that he wasn’t aware of CM’s reasons behind sacking Mankotia. Bali contradicts Vikramaditya
Contradicting state Youth Congress President Vikramaditya Singh, Bali said that elections in the state will be fought on ‘Dev Bhumi’ pattern, and not Bihar pattern. “I don’t know about any other pattern, or Bihar Pattern, but we will be embracing our own Dev Bhumi pattern,” he said hinting that will be fought on issues without restoring to personal attacks or violence. A few days back, Vikramaditya had said the polls will be fought on Bihar pattern to prove that Prime Minister Modi is not the most popular leader.