Thu. Dec 9th, 2021

Mysterious Himachal

Land of God & Faith

Raja Sahib, a member of the Congress’s elder generation, began his political career at the age of 27 with the Lok Sabha elections in 1962.

Raja Virbhadra Singh is a Himachal political legend. Raja Sahib, a descendant of the Rampur-Bushahr royal dynasty, controlled not a single kingdom but the hearts of the people of Himachal Pradesh for more than five decades. Raja Sahib, a six-time Chief Minister, nine-time MLA, and five-time Member of Parliament, died on Thursday, July 8, 2021, at 3.30 a.m. in Shimla’s Indira Gandhi Medical College and Hospital.

Raja Sahib, a member of the Congress’s older generation, began his political career at 27 with the Lok Sabha elections in 1962. He held four terms as a Member of Parliament. However, not continually-he was a member of parliament in 1967, 1971, 1980, and 2009.

His first term as Chief Minister of the state began in 1983, and he served two consecutive terms until 1990. Virbhadra is a veteran of central politics, having served as MP five times and CM six times. He managed the state efficiently and was actively involved in the growth of tourism and the construction of education and health facilities. Raja Sahib was a popular politician who re-elected Chief Minister in 1985, 1993, 2003, and 2012. In 1976-77, he was appointed Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation. He also won the Lok Sabha elections in 2009, when he served as Union Minister of Steel and then as Minister of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises.

Virbhadra avoided nearly every problem that arose, including corruption charges and a loss of power inside the party. He deflected threats from numerous of his party’s opponents. In the early 1990s, he faced a strong fight from Congress veteran Sukh Ram. The Congress won 52 of the 68 assembly seats in 1993. Sukh Ram, a close friend of then-Prime Minister Narasimha Rao. He wanted to be the Chief Minister. Sukh Ram received the backing of 22 MLAs.

However, Virbhadra, who was well-known for his political prowess, was able to secure the backing of 29 MLAs and five independents to seize power. The then-Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh, who the Congress high command had dispatched, was compelled to rethink. Virbhadra returned when Sukhram’s name was mentioned in the telecom scandal.

The difficulties of political existence

In 1998, Virbhadra attacked Virbhadra again when Sukh Ram established the Himachal Vikas Congress, which gained five seats and helped put the BJP under Prem Kumar Dhumal’s leadership on March 24, 1998.

The Virbhadra Singh administration fell after Ramesh Chand Choudhary, the sole independent MLA, withdrew his support. The Governor, VS Rama Devi, then requested Virbhadra to show his majority on the House floor within 10 days. However, the assembly elections, held concurrently with the Lok Sabha elections, resulted in a hung house.

Virbhadra resigned as a Union minister in Manmohan Singh’s UPA-II administration when a Himachal court filed corruption allegations against him. However, his popularity compelled the party’s central leadership to recall him to the state. He succeeded Kaul Singh Thakur as state Congress chief and led the party to victory in the 2012 assembly elections.

Senior Congress leaders Vidya Stokes and Thakur questioned their authority but were unable to maintain their position. Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, the party’s former state president, also attempted to run, but Virbhadra prevailed.

Unparalleled popularity

None of his party’s or the opposing BJP’s leaders could match Virbhadra’s popularity. He was quite loving and would listen to people with great interest. In his talks, he frequently stated, “My people are my strongest argument.” Because of his popularity, he never campaigned in his constituency after submitting his candidacy papers there.

Virbhadra was born on June 23, 1934, and attended Colonel Brown Cambridge School in Dehradun, St. Edward’s School in Shimla, and Bishop Cotton School in Shimla before earning a BA degree in English Honors from St. Stephen’s College in Delhi. In 1954, he married Ratna Kumari, and they had four daughters.

In 1985, he remarried, and his wife, Pratibha Singh, was elected to the Mandi parliamentary district. Vikramaditya Singh, their son, is a Shimla Rural MLA, and Aparajita, their daughter, is married to Angad Singh, the grandson of Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh.