Ex-telecom minister campaigning for son in Himachal


Mandi (Himachal Pradesh) : Former union telecom minister Sukh Ram, who has been pleading ill health to avoid conviction in a 1996 telecom irregularities case, is busy campaigning for his son Anil Sharma, a Congress candidate in Himachal Pradesh.

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Popularly known as “Pandit-ji”, Sukh Ram, 84, is seeking votes for his son and other Congress candidates in the Mandi parliamentary constituency from where he was a three-time MP.

“As Pandit-ji commands much influence in the area, we are taking his help not only in Mandi but also in nearby constituencies,” Anil Sharma told IANS.

Sukh Ram will be touring Dharampur and Seraj constituencies from Oct 30.

Sitting legislator Sharma is still cashing in on the legacy of his father — a five-time legislator from Mandi. He is up against the BJP’s D.D. Thakur, who lost two consecutive assembly elections in 2003 and 2007.

There are 10 candidates in the fray from Mandi with a total electorate of 63,347, including 32,012 women.

Currently on interim bail granted by the Supreme Court, Sukh Ram had to resign as the communications minister in the P.V. Narasimha Rao government in 1996 in the wake of a financial scandal involving purchase of telecom equipment from a Hyderabad-based private firm.

He was granted interim bail by the apex court in January this year after he had surrendered before a trial court to serve his three-year sentence in the telecom case.

The Delhi High Court in December last year upheld a lower court’s 2002 judgment holding Sukh Ram and others guilty.

In the 2009 parliamentary elections, he had refused to campaign for Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who was contesting from Mandi constituency. Sukh Ram had said that he was too old to take to the streets for helping Raja saheb, as Virbhadra Singh is popularly known.

When the alleged telecom wrongdoing came to light, Sukh Ram — who blamed certain Congress leaders saying they had conspired to frame him — parted ways with the Congress in 1997 and floated his regional political outfit Himachal Vikas Congress (HVC).

Ironically, the HVC got telephone as the party symbol. In the 1998 assembly elections, HVC won five seats, and one seat in the 2003 polls.

In 2004, the Congress managed to bring back HVC rebels into its fold.

Himachal Pradesh will go to the polls Nov 4.