In a blow to Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh just a week after being declared as Congress’s chief ministerial face in the upcoming Assembly polls in Himachal Pradesh, his minister Anil Sharma, son of former union minister Sukh Ram, is set to join the BJP. A formal announcement to this effect is expected on Sunday in New Delhi in the presence of BJP president Amit Shah, a senior BJP leader told the Indian Express over phone from Delhi.
The BJP, which is in the process of finalising tickets, will field Sharma’s son Ashray Sharma from Mandi Sadar, a seat which Anil Sharma has won thrice. Ashray Sharma is elder brother of Aayush Sharma, who married Bolloywood actor Salman Khan’s sister Arpita in 2014. Anil Sharma has been a minister in the Congress governments in Himachal Pradesh twice and also a Rajya Sabha member. He is also expected to resign from the Cabinet before taking BJP membership.
When contacted over phone, Sharma also confirmed the development. “My son has already met Amit Shah in Delhi. I will also resign from the cabinet. We cannot take any more humiliation from the Congress and its leaders,” he said from Mandi. He may also travel to Delhi on Sunday. On October 7, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had addressed a rally at Mandi to kick-start his party’s campaign for the state polls. Anil Sharma was also on the dais and had even proposed a vote of thanks for Rahul.
Sources in the BJP said Anil Sharma had met Amit Shah and senior party leaders a few days back and was also in touch with former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal. Sharma is currently minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj in the Himachal cabinet. In 1998, Sukh Ram had supported BJP to form a coalition government under Prem Kumar Dhumal in the state. There have also been reports about another minister G S Bali quitting the Congress to join BJP. He was said to be in touch with top BJP leaders, including Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Amit Shah.