Days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the Himachal Pradesh CM was out on bail much like the central leadership of the Congress, AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday declared CM Virbhadra Singh as the party’s next chief ministerial face for the poll-bound state. His announcement came at the Congress rally, Vikas se Vijay ki Aur, at Mandi’s Paddal ground, which was held amid the party’s factional fight between Chief Minister Virbhadra and PCC president Sukhwinder Sukhu.
At the rally, where both Virbhadra and Sukhu shared the dais with him, Rahul showered praise on Virbhadra, terming him a champion of Himachal’s development, which he said surpassed Modi’s “Gujarat model” in facts, figures and visibility. “You say (Virbhadra) Raja nahin faqir hai… I say Virbhadra Singh has put his heart and soul in taking development to every nook and corner of the state. He has measured every inch of these mountains and terrains in chappals (shoes). The six-time Chief Minister will now be a seventh-time CM. He enjoys the backing of the party,” Rahul announced amid slogans from the crowd.
Those on stage included AICC general secretary Sushil Kumar Shinde, who is party in-charge of Himachal, Congress deputy leader in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma, MP Viplove Thakur, AICC secretary Ranjit Ranjan, state Youth Congress president and CM’s son Vikramaditya Singh.
The Congress rally was held barely four days after BJP’s rally at at Bilaspur, where Modi made remarks about the CM being out on bail like the central Congress leadership.
Speaking at the Mandi rally today, senior Congress leader Anand Sharma said it was none of the PM’s business to give certificates to the Congress leadership by using derogatory language. “Congress is proud of its leadership. It does not behove him to ridicule our leaders as we would not wish to say what reputation their leaders enjoy.”
Addressing the rally, Rahul drew a comparison between Gujarat’s development with that of Himachal. He said Himachal provided 70,000 jobs during the last five years compared to 10,000 in Gujarat. Reeling off other figures to support his point, Rahul said Gujarat was the worst example of rising unemployment as there were 50 lakh jobless youths who had been hit hard by economic policies of the Centre.
Accusing the PM of not listening to the genuine voice of the people, Rahul said one who did not care about the public sentiment cannot run the country.