Congress Himachal bypoll campaign launched by an upset Virbhadra


Shimla : Steel Minister Virbhadra Singh Monday launched the Congress party’s election campaign in Himachal Pradesh for the Nov 7 by-elections to two assembly seats, while saying he should not be blamed if the party nominees did not win. He is upset because his wife was not nominated from one of the seats.

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“I am launching my election campaign from Rohru this (Monday) morning. For the next four days I will campaign for the Congress candidate from Rohru (Manjit Singh). I will tour the entire constituency,” Virbhadra Singh told IANS here, before leaving for Rohru, some 200 km away.

“I have come here as a party worker. I will ensure the victory of the candidates in both seats. But the state party president (Kaul Singh Thakur) and the state legislative party leader (Vidya Stokes) are more responsible for ensuring their victory,” he said.

The Rohru constituency has been a Virbhadra Singh stronghold for the past two decades. He was the legislator from there before he won the Lok Sabha elections and vacated the seat.

“Nobody should try to pass the blame on to me if the party suffers defeat in the by-elections,” he said.

Virbhadra Singh, five-time former chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, arrived here Sunday evening from Delhi to start his five-day election campaign.

Visibly upset over denial of party nomination to his wife Pratibha Singh, a former MP, he said: “It (Rohru) had been my stronghold. I am campaigning for the party candidates only as an ordinary Congress worker. I am one among 1,000 workers who will work for the party.”

“I don’t know, but I was told that my wife (Pratibha Singh) was not given ticket due a new principle adopted by the party not to allocate tickets to family members of party leaders,” he said.

“I am glad that this policy has been adopted…and started from me. All this was not implemented in the (recent) assembly polls (Haryana, Maharashtra and Arunachal Pradesh) and in some other states. Himachal is the first state picked up for this by the party.”

The state’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has fielded Khushi Ram Balnatah, who lost the Rohru elections four times in succession.

The Congress candidate for the other seat, Jawali, is former minister Sujan Singh Pathania. He is up against BJP’s Baldev Raj Chaudhary.