After the BJP denied candidature to his grandson Aashray Sharma, Sukh Ram, a former Union minister who wields significant influence in Himachal Pradesh’s Mandi constituency, along with Aashray rejoined the Congress on Monday, after a year and a half long association with the BJP. While Aashray could soon be declared the Congress candidate from Mandi, the entire episode has landed his father Anil Sharma, a four-time MLA in Himachal Pradesh state Assembly and a former Rajya Sabha member who is currently a minister in the BJP government in Himachal Pradesh, in a tricky situation.
Anil Sharma in an interview with The Indian Express, mentions that he will not resign from the post of Multi-Purpose Projects and Power Minister in the BJP government in Himachal Pradesh unless the party leadership asks him to.
Excerpts from the interview:
Do you plan to resign from the Jai Ram Thakur Cabinet, now that your son Aashray and father Sukh Ram, are both in the Congress?
I will not resign from my Cabinet post unless the BJP leaders ask me to. I will follow what I’m asked to do by my party.
Do you plan to eventually quit as BJP MLA, and rejoin the Congress?
Even if I have to resign from my post as a minister, I will continue to remain an MLA from Mandi, because the people of Mandi have elected me. I will continue to serve my people in the capacity of an MLA, and I do not plan to leave the BJP. But, if I’m removed from the party then that’ll solely be the party’s decision.
Currently, I have no plans of getting associated with the Congress.
Why, according to you, did Aashray and Sukh Ram join the Congress?
Prior to joining the BJP (in October 2017), Aashray was Secretary in Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee. When I became a BJP minister, I requested the chief minister to give Aashray some responsibility in the party, but the chief minister didn’t take my requests seriously.
Also, in 2017 state Assembly polls, the BJP won nine out of 10 Assembly seats in Mandi district, where my family has a strong base, but the chief minister never acknowledged my father’s contribution to BJP’s victory in Mandi. In fact, they (BJP leaders) made my old (92-year-old) father campaign for them in the state Assembly polls only to deny that he was ever a part of the BJP.
All this has had an impact on my father and my son, who feel that they’ve faced humiliation in the party, which is why they rejoined the Congress.
There is a high probability that Aashray might be the Congress candidate from the Mandi seat for the upcoming polls, and if you stay in the BJP then, as Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur has been saying, you’ll be expected to campaign for the BJP. Will you campaign against your son?
I have made it clear to the party that if my son is the Congress candidate from Mandi then I will not campaign against him. I could remain silent, and campaign for neither my son nor for the BJP candidate from Mandi (Ramswaroop Sharma), but there is no chance that I will campaign against my son.
Was your consent sought when your father and son decided to join hands with the Congress?
I was not consulted, nor was my consent sought before my father and my son decided to join the Congress. I knew that talks were going on between them and few Congress leaders, but my permission was not sought before the decision to join the Congress was made.
What impact could your father and son joining the Congress have on your political career?
My son and my father have joined the Congress, not I. I’m still a BJP leader and I will continue being one till my party wants. I had won the 2017 Assembly election from Mandi as a BJP candidate, prior to which I was in the Congress. This is my fourth term in the state Assembly, so I don’t think that my family members’ decision to join the Congress will bear any repercussions for me.
The decision to join the Congress had to do with my son who wants to be a political leader. He has the right to join any party he wishes to.
Has any BJP leader contacted you yet asking you to resign?
I have not been contacted by any BJP leader yet on the issue of my continuing as a BJP minister, or resigning. However, I had met the chief minister before my son and father were to join the Congress, and I had explained the situation to him.