Six times Chief Minister, Virbhadra Singh turned 82 on June 23 and his government completed three and a half years of rule on June 25 in Himachal Pradesh. As usual, it was pomp and show at his residence Holly Lodge on his birthday with his loyalists from across the state reaching him to celebrate. All this, despite the fact that the Congress Chief Minister, who is one of the senior most party leaders in the country, is facing troubled times at the moment in the event of CBI and Enforcement Directorate cases against him in disproportionate assets and money laundering allegations.
But that is what it typical of this old guard of politics, who enjoys mass appeal in Himachal Pradesh, having ruled the state for over two decades in six different tenures. He has gained the image of a persistent fighter in HP politics and come what may, while his supporters stand for him in odds, he too reciprocates in the same spirit. His capacities to stay the top, toppling the motives of all the rivals within and outside party, make him stand out, as he moves on unrelenting in the political battle field. Even now, when his house was raided by CBI and then he and his children were subject to questioning, Singh did not show any signs of demoralization.
Fighting it legally, he has kept his political agenda alive at the age of 82, and no rival can still beat him in the political spirits that keep him alive and kicking at this age. Rather, in this government, it would not be wrong to mention that the elderly ministers, whether Virbhadra Singh, Vidya Stokes (87) or Kaul Singh Thakur (70) have been consistently and seriously working hard in the field. They are the ones to be seen in the state secretariat, when they are in town. The present tenure of Virbhadra Singh in fact came as a surprise for many, as he fought back at the last minute after having been made to quit the Union ministry in the wake of framing of charges against him in a corruption case registered in 2009 in previous BJP regime.
The party had to elevate him as State Congress Chief before the assembly polls in 2012, sensing that he can put up a challenge to the BJP government in HP then, which was going strong on the development plank. But in a typical rise, he came and conquered again and even got the clean chit in the corruption case from trial court before taking oath as CM on December 25, 2012. The people of Himachal trusted him, despite the fact that the entire BJP targetted him personally on corruption issue in the run up to 2012 polls. Even after that in the past three and a half years of rule, he has been constantly attacked personally by the BJP, with the family of former BJP Chief Minister and leader of opposition, Prem Kumar Dhumal on the front.
The CBI and ED cases were also registered against him on the allegations brought forward by Dhumal’s younger son, Arun Dhumal and initially central leader, Arun Jaitley—But he continues, with none in the party or the Congress high command having been able to challenge his leadership even in the midst of such a crisis. Obviously, Singh has dubbed it all as a conspiracy and political victimization at the behest of BJP that he says, would come out clean of, ultimately. “Dhumal became the chief minister of Himachal twice and both the times, he fabricated cases against me. I had to face trial twice in the sessions court earlier also and I got the clean chit in court. I will come out clean again as truth prevails, ultimately,” Singh declares from the public stage quite often, as he is prepared to take on the electoral challenge in 2017 assembly polls as well despite all odds.
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