Business Standard

Sukh Ram's son quits Congress, to contest Himachal election on BJP ticket

CM Virbhadra Singh says the father-son duo's exit from the Congress was expected; Sukh Ram has a history of switching loyalties

Archis Mohan  |  New Delhi 

Anil Sharma. Photo: Twitter (@DDNewsLive)
Anil Sharma. Photo: Twitter (@DDNewsLive)

There was a time when the name of Sukh Ram, a leader from Himachal Pradesh, had become synonymous with that of the archetypal corrupt Indian politician. In 1996, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had seized Rs 3.6 crore in cash stashed in suitcases from Sukh Ram’s residence. He was the communication minister in the PV Narasimha Rao government. The episode came to be known as the ‘Telecom scam’.

On Sunday, Anil Sharma, Sukh Ram’s 61-year-old son, confirmed that his 90-year-old father and he had joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He also announced that he would contest the Mandi Assembly seat on the ticket.

member Anurag Thakur tweeted: “Welcome to Anil Sharmaji. Best wishes to you for taking a stand against corruption and joining Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision for new India”. Chief Minister is battling corruption-related cases. The was yet to release its list of candidates at the time of filing of this report. The election is scheduled for November 9.

Sharma was the rural development minister in the government. The CM said the exit of the father-son duo from the was expected. He also said Sukh Ram had a reputation of switching loyalties. “He is the first well-known ‘Aaya Ram Gaya Ram’ in Himachal Pradesh,” he said in Shimla.

Sukh Ram, born into a not particularly well-to-do Brahmin family in in 1927, has had a rags to riches life. He was a struggling lawyer who turned to politics and made good. His son, Anil Sharma, followed him into politics. Incidentally, the family has another claim to fame. Sukh Ram’s grandson, and Anil’s son, Aayush Sharma married actor Salman Khan’s sister Arpita a few years ago.

On Sunday, Sharma complained that his father and he were being sidelined in the party. He said his father was asked not to attend Vice-President Rahul Gandhi’s public rally in Mandi, and he wasn’t included in party’s state unit committees.

Sukh Ram represented the Mandi Assembly seat from 1963 to 1984. He was elected to the in 1984 and served as a junior minister in the Rajiv Gandhi government. He served as minister of state for defence production and supplies, planning and food and civil supplies. In 1991, Sukh Ram was the Union minister of state (independent charge) of the communications portfolio.

While Sukh Ram represented the Mandi constituency, his son contested and won the Assembly seat in 1993. Sukh Ram won the Mandi seat in 1996. But the two were expelled from the party after the telecom scam. They formed the Himachal Vikas Congress, had a post-poll alliance with the and joined the government.

Sukh Ram lost the election in 1998, but won the Assembly seat. His son was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1998. In the 2003 Assembly poll, Sukh Ram retained the Mandi Assembly seat but joined the in the run-up to the 2004 polls. won the Mandi Assembly seat in 2007 and 2012 as a candidate.

The family has a significant influence among the Himachal’s Brahmins, who comprise nearly 20 per cent, or a fifth, of the state’s electorate – the second-highest for any state in India, next only to Uttarakhand.

Corruption allegations aside, Mandi has flourished along with the family and the father-son duo remain popular. 

First Published: Mon, October 16 2017. 08:43 IST