Six-time Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh will be contesting the November 9 elections from Theog – an assembly constituency of veteran Congress leader Vidya Stokes, a seven-time MLA, who wants to call it a day from politics.
The 90-year old Stokes, fondly called as ‘Madam’, is the daughter-in-law of Satyanand Stokes, who is credited with the apple revolution in Himachal Pradesh. In the 2012 Assembly elections, Singh had fought from the Shimla (Rural) constituency. That seat will now be contested by his son and youth Congress president Vikramaditya Singh, who will seek to make his debut in the state assembly.
Minutes after the Election Commission announced the dates of the assembly polls, the Chief Minister said Stokes and the state Congress committee had invited him to contest the upcoming assembly elections from Theog. Singh, however, admitted that he was also offered to contest from other constituencies, like Arki in Solan district, which has not been won by the Congress in the last three elections. Chopal was also another option for the veteran Congress leader, but Singh is believed to have taken a final call for contesting from Theog.
Stokes’ decision, however, to not contest the elections must have come as a jolt to the Congress, losing another veteran politician after Shankersinh Vaghela in Gujarat. Party sources said Stokes’ US-based son and daughter prevailed on her to call it a day. The 90-year-old had contested nine elections of which she won seven. Twice she had lost chief ministerial battles to Virbhadra Singh.
“It’s true that Stokes met the Chief Minister and held talks with him on Theog. He is the most suitable candidate to retain the constituency which she has nursed well during the past five years as Irrigation and Public Health minister,” a party member said.
Stokes has also written a letter to the Congress high command informing them about her decision to back the candidature of Virbhadra Singh from Theog. “I am going to Delhi in one or two days to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi and also AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi to ask them for giving a ticket to Virbhadra Singh from Theog,” she said.