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Fresh tug of war between two Himachal Congress arch rivals


IANS Shimla
In a fresh tug of war between two Congress arch rivals in Himachal Pradesh, six-time former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and former Telecom Minister Sukh Ram, the former slammed the latter at an election rally for ditching the party.
"I cannot forgive Pandit Sukh Ram for launching his own party after leaving the Congress," the former Chief Minister said at the rally in favour of Sukh Ram's grandson Ashray Sharma, a Congress candidate from Mandi.
At the same time, Singh didn't forget to appeal to the public to ensure the victory of the party candidate.
His assertions came in response to an apology by Sukh Ram from a public platform in Mandi a few days ago.
Praising Singh, 83, and terming him a 'Vikas Purush', an emotional Sukh Ram, 91, said: "I went to meet Virbhadra Singh in Delhi and sought apology from him if I had annoyed him ever in past."
At that time Singh was also sharing the dais.
Interestingly, ahead of Singh launching the campaign, his legislator son Vikramaditya Singh campaigned for Ashray Sharma who is pitted against Bharatiya Janata Party (bjp) sitting MP Ram Swaroop Sharma.
Mandi is one of the country's largest constituencies comprising Kullu, Mandi and some areas of Chamba and Shimla districts, besides the tribal-dominated Assembly seats of Kinnaur, Lahaul and Spiti.
Sukh Ram holds a mass base in Mandi and Kullu districts, but he needs Virbhadra Singh's support in other areas where his hold sway, said a senior party leader. Both are three-time MPs from Mandi.
The seat is also seeing a battle of supremacy between Sukh Ram and Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur as both belong to Mandi district.
Sukh Ram, popularly known as Panditji in Mandi, in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections refused to campaign for Virbhadra Singh.
During the 2013 Lok Sabha by-polls caused by Virbhadra Singh's resignation, he told the media that he was too old to take to the streets for Virbhadra Singh's wife Pratibha Singh.
In 2017, the Sukh Ram family joined the BJP, but parted ways with it to rejoin the Congress on March 25.
Ahead of launching their election campaign earlier this month, they met Virbhadra Singh in New Delhi to iron out their differences.
Himachal Pradesh four Lok Sabha seats -- Shimla (reserved), Kangra, Hamirpur and Mandi -- will vote on May 19.
(Vishal Gulati can be reached at

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First Published: Apr 29 2019 | 3:14 PM IST

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