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‘No camp in our party since the death of Virbhadra Singh’: Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, former Himachal Congress chief

“All sections of society are unhappy with the government... Literacy rate is high, an example of which was witnessed in bypolls last year, people elected our candidates in all the four seats”

Congress' Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu after filing his nomination from Himachal Pradesh's Nadaun Assembly seat. (Twitter/@SukhuSukhvinder)

The Congress candidate from Nadaun Assembly seat and the party’s former Himachal Pradesh president, Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, is seen as one of the chief ministerial contenders if the party comes to power. The 58-year-old talks about the Congress chances, his plans and his no-frills Alto car. Excerpts:

* What is the response you are getting on the ground?

SUKHU: When I filed my nomination on October 21, around 15,000 people accompanied me. This was the size of the gathering despite Nadaun being a small town. People are angry because of price rise, unemployment, police entrance paper leak, inefficiency of the Jai Ram Thakur government, and corruption during the pandemic due to which the state BJP president (Rajeev Bindal) had to step down.

* How do you see Congress chances in the elections?

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SUKHU: Bright! Young, old, government employees, shopkeepers, farmers — all sections of society are unhappy with the present government. They want change. Literacy rate is high in the state, an example of which was witnessed in the bypolls last year. People made an informed choice and elected our candidates in all the seats — one Lok Sabha and three Assembly.

* How many seats do you expect to win this time?

SUKHU: I won’t put a number on the seats but a full majority for sure.

* But your party is riven by internal fights.

SUKHU: There are no internal fights. Kya kisi neta ne doosare neta ke khilaf kabhi kuchh kaha hai? Kya aapne kabhi aisa kuchh padha hai? Agar aisa nahin hai, to antarkalah kahan hai? Hum sab log ikattha hain (Has any leader said anything against another leader? Have you ever read any such thing? If this is not the case, then where is the internal fight? We are all united).

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* Reports said there were heated exchanges between representatives of different camps when tickets were being finalised.

SUKHU: These are all rumours. There is no camp in our party since the death of (former chief minister) Virbhadra Singh. Then people used to hold secret meetings and make statements against each other. There is no such thing now.

* Among the 10 guarantees your party has announced, it is said you have contributed significantly to the one on milk.

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SUKHU: We will buy milk at Rs 80 per kg from farmers and sell it at the prevailing market rate. This will strengthen rural as well as family economy.

* Are you a CM candidate?

SUKHU: MLAs and the high command will decide that (if the Congress wins).

* You were the Pradesh Congress Committee president for six years but never part of the government?

SUKHU: When I was the state Congress chief, I was offered the post of State Finance Commission chairman with Cabinet rank, but I refused because I believe in the one-man, one-post principle. When I was elected MLA for the first time, there was an offer to make me CPS (Chief Parliamentary Secretary). I refused that too because of differences with Virbhadra Singh.

* Your Alto car often grabs eyeballs.

SUKHU: It is a 2003 model. I still use it. I don’t love fancy cars. I believe in simplicity.

* What are your plans if you return as MLA?

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SUKHU: During the pandemic, I withdrew Rs 11 lakh from my fixed deposit and contributed it along with my salary for the whole year towards the CM relief fund. We’ll bring a transparency Bill when we form the government. This will apply to all those holding public office. Their source of income, unhone kya kharida, unhone kya becha (what they bought, what they sold), they will have to declare every detail every year.

First published on: 26-10-2022 at 07:00 IST
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