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Weekly Pullouts » Himachal Tribune

Posted at: Jun 9, 2018, 12:26 AM; last updated: Jun 9, 2018, 12:26 AM (IST)INTERVIEW

‘There’s no question of my contesting LS poll’

Virbhadra Singh: Had there been proper distribution of Assembly tickets, we would have formed the government again

Despite six-time Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh having announced that the campaign for the 2017 Assembly poll was the last in his political career, the party is once again looking at the indefatigable leader to woo the voters in its fight against the BJP during parliamentary poll.

The indomitable spirit of the octogenarian leader is still intact even though he was denied the post of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader. He is a sitting MLA with the Congress having a total of 21 legislators in the Assembly. The fact is that he still remains the tallest leader, the party can bank upon. However, the veteran leader is reluctant to be used by the party as and when it chooses to.

His dislike for state Congress president Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu is no secret. Right from the day Sukhu was handed over the reins of the party in January 2013, the “Raja” has been gunning for him. The dogged pursuit still continues and his condition to make himself available for campaigning remains Sukhu’s ouster.

Having contested his first Lok Sabha election at the age of 28 in 1962, he has been a five-time MP and has won nine Assembly elections. He has been the Chief Minister on six occasions and was thrice elected president of the state Congress.   

In a candid conversation with Special Correspondent Pratibha Chauhan, he expressed his views on diverse topics, including his own future plans, the RSS, the Congress affairs and his memoirs that he is currently penning.


With Lok Sabha elections due next year, would you make yourself available for the campaign as the Congress is heavily banking on you?

The party cannot use me as and when it wishes to do so and ignore me conveniently otherwise. I do not consider myself a Congress leader but a dedicated Congress man. However, it hurts me to say that the party today is in total mess. If things do not improve and changes are not made, we have little hope of winning.

Would you be willing to campaign for the party in case changes are made as per your choice?

Yes, I could rethink but one thing is clear that the state Congress President must be changed. There are two reasons for it, one that he has been there for more than five years and second he has failed to raise his political stature within or outside the party.

It is unfortunate that office-bearers are being nominated and imposed from the top, ignoring the fact that the Congress is a democratic party where everyone must be elected. The party today is full of nominated people, ignoring those who are strong at the grassroots level and are dedicated party workers.

I also wish to reiterate that I will simply not put my seal on names of people with doubtful credentials. I am of the firm opinion that everyone must come through the election process, right from the block level to the AICC. The manner in which people are being appointed now, it is nothing short of hijacking the party.

If the party fields you or your wife, Pratibha Singh for the Lok Sabha polls from the Mandi parliamentary seat, would you agree?

Are we sacrificial goats which can be used according to the whim of the party? No, there is no question of me contesting the Lok Sabha poll.

You have been associated with the Congress party for close to six decades. What in your opinion are the reasons for the Congress debacle in almost all states?

The Congress was and is such a powerful party, but today nobody is discussing or propagating the Congress ideology in public. The present generation does not know about the Congress, its ideology and its great leaders who dedicated their life to the nation and the party. All this has to be renewed and discussed. Besides, the party office-bearers are nominated and not elected, resulting in a farce. On several occasions, completely fraudulent party elections took place in closed rooms in the presence of a handful of leaders, which only weakened the organisation. 

Had there been proper distribution of Assembly tickets, we would have formed the government again. Almost a dozen seats were given to the BJP virtually on a platter by fielding very weak candidates.

How do you rate the performance of the BJP regime in the state?

The Chief Minister is still trying to find his feet. As of now, I see no positive results which are in public interest. Bureaucracy cannot do anything till there is proper guidance. There is no dearth of capable and experienced officials who can be relied upon in policy formulation. However, the government cannot run in an “ad hoc” manner.

The Chief Minister can take advice from anywhere, but it is for him to accept or to ignore it in the interest of the state. I have nothing against the RSS which is a body of highly motivated and dedicated people, but they just cannot advise and interfere in intricate administrative matters. My sincere advice to the Chief Minister, who otherwise is a good person and a thorough gentleman, is to free himself from the clutches of the RSS because it cannot interpret or formulate government policies.


On his memoirs

I have started penning my memoirs which will be published only after my death. I do not wish to hurt people but the book will be a truthful narration of things as I saw them in my close to six decade career. I am fortunate to have enjoyed good relations with everyone, including my political opponents, but I will have to make honest observations which could hurt some.  

On corruption cases

I have had to face these cases because I took action against the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) for their wrongdoings. I am not against cricket but as the Chief Minister, I could not have overlooked the irregularities in the grant of prime government land and change of land use. It’s (the cases) all the handiwork of Arun Jaitley because of which the CBI, the Enforcement Directorate and the Income Tax authorities are hounding me by re-opening old settled cases. I am not a businessman and my earnings are only from agriculture. I will come out clean provided I get a fair trial because under the present dispensation anything is possible. Though there are many good judges, but many of them have been appointed by Jaitley and they would want to put my case before a judge on whom they have complete faith. 

PK Dhumal’s defeat in 2017 poll

All I can say is that this is divine retribution which he has had to face. During the two terms Dhumal was the Chief Minister, I had to face trial twice but since I was innocent I came out clean. This time too I will face the probe in the income tax cases and come out clean provided there is a fair trial.


Highlights

"I wish to reiterate that (if at all I campaign) I will simply not put my seal on names of people with doubtful credentials. I am of the firm opinion that everyone must come through the election process, right from the block level to the AICC. The manner in which people are being appointed now, it is nothing short of hijacking the party."

"I could rethink but one thing is clear that the state Congress President must be changed. There are two reasons for it, one that he has been there for more than five years and second he has failed to raise his political stature within or outside the party. It is unfortunate that office-bearers are being nominated and imposed from the top, ignoring the fact that the Congress is a democratic party."

"The Congress was and is such a powerful party, but today nobody is discussing or propagating the Congress ideology in public. The present generation does not know about the Congress, its ideology and its great leaders who dedicated their life to the nation and the party. All this has to be renewed and discussed."

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