Himachal Pradesh Transport Minister G S Bali on Monday skipped Congress MLAs’ lunch with Opposition’s Presidential poll nominee, Meira Kumar, and instead spent time with sacked HP Tourism Board vice-chairman Major (retd) Vijai Singh Mankotia.
Right after a brief Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting, which was also attended by Meira Kumar, AICC general secretary Ambika Soni, CM Virbhadra Singh and Congress’s Deputy Leader in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma, Bali quietly drove to his official residence, where Mankotia was waiting for him.
In an show of camaraderie, Bali then drove Mankotia towards town’s Mall Road, where both went for a stroll. Later, as the two sipped tea at Ashiana, HPTDC’s restaurant at the Ridge, both were joined by other Congress leaders, including PCC Chief spokesperson Kuldeep Rathore. Mankotia was removed from the post of vice-chairman three days ago over an interview accusing Chief Minister of corruption. A day later, he had urged the Governor to dismiss Virbhadra from the CM’s post.
Bali cosying up to Mankotia could be a worrying signal for the Congress. The minister is known for his close ties with Union ministers Nitin Gadkari and Arun Jaitley. According to reports, Bali had recently held two to three rounds of meetings with BJP President Amit Shah. With BJP already hoping to form the next government, Bali — who is a vocal Kangra leader — can add to the ruling party’s troubles by causing it more embarrassment. Insiders said that Bali was likely to hold a press conference on Tuesday to announce his plans.