TWO DAYS after he openly snubbed Congress general secretary Sushilkumar Shinde for ruling out any change in PCC, AICC secretary Ranjeet Ranjan, also the party co-in-charge, on Friday reached out to Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh to pacify him against state Congress president Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu.
Though Shinde claimed that Ranjan’s tour of Una district with the CM was just a coincidence, party insiders say she had been sent specifically to initiate a dialogue with Virbhadra and make him agree to some mutually agreeable formula before the polls. “After our tour in Chamba together, she decided to have separate tours of some districts. I will also be visiting Hamirpur and Shimla parliamentary constituencies soon,” he said. When told that the CM had reminded him of not being the final authority to decide on Sukhu, Shinde said, “He (CM) is right on that count. It’s the high command which has to take a final decision. I never said I am the final authority.”
Virbhadra had declared that he would not contest the polls if Sukhu was not replaced and that he should be in charge of the poll in case the high command wanted him to remain the face of the party. “If the party doesn’t want me, I’d better sit at home.” Although Ranjan held talks with Virbhadra earlier to end the impasse on the leadership issue, the latter was adamant on his demand of replace Sukhu. Only on Thursday, Youth Congress, which his son Vikramaditya Singh heads as its president, passed a resolution asking the party to give Virbhadra a free hand as only he can bring the party back to power.
In Chintpurni (Una) to launch new projects, Virbhadra again reiterated his stand on Friday that party posts be given to those coming through the electoral process and not nominated. His reference is to Sukhu, who was in his second term after having been nominated.
With Ranjan by his side, Virbhadra on Friday hit out at Transport Minister G S Bali, who a few days back, had dared the CM to remove him from the Cabinet. He said Bali’s statement amounted to indiscipline and being a minister, this doesn’t augur well for the party. The CM also claimed that only a handful of partymen were against him as he enjoyed the faith and trust of the people in the rest of the state.
About his decision to fight the polls, the CM said, “I am tired (of cases filed against by the CBI, ED and Income Tax) but neither am I afraid nor defeated. I will expose the BJP’s design of framing false cases to finish me politically. I have spent huge money and my energy to fight my cases. I am not defeated so far,” he declared.