There was a time when the name Sukh Ram, a Congress
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 have joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He also announced that he would contest the Mandi assembly seat on the BJP ticket.
BJP Lok Sabha member Anurag Thakur
tweeted: “Welcome to BJP Anil Sharmaji. Best wishes to you for taking a stand against corruption and joining Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision for new India”. Congress
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh is battling corruption related cases. The BJP 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 Virbhadra Singh government. The CM said the exit of the father and son duo from the Congress
was expected. The CM said Sukh Ram
has 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 Himachal Pradesh 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 some years back.
On Sunday, Sharma complained that his father and he were being sidelined in the Congress
party. He said his father was asked not to attend Congress
Vice President Rahul Gandhi’s public rally in Mandi, ad he wasn’t included in party’s state unit committees.
represented the Mandi assembly seat from 1963 to 1984. He was elected to the Lok Sabha 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 Lok Sabha constituency, his son contested and won the assembly seat in 1993. Sukh Ram
won the Mandi Lok Sabha seat in 1996. But the two were expelled from the Congress
party after the Telecom scam. They formed the Himachal Vikas Congress, had a post poll alliance with the BJP and joined the government.
lost the Lok Sabha election in 1998, but won the assembly seat. His son Anil Sharma
was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1998. In the 2003 assembly poll, Sukh Ram
retained the Mandi assembly seat but joined the Congress
in the run up to the 2004 Lok Sabha polls. Anil Sharma
won the Mandi assembly seat in 2007 and 2012 as a Congress
The family has significant influence among the Brahmins in the state. The Brahmins comprise nearly 20 per cent, or a fifth, of the electorate in the state – the second highest for any state in India after Uttarakhand. Corruption allegations aside, Mandi has flourished along with the family and the father-son duo remain popular.