Shimla, Oct 16: In a blow to the Congress ahead of the Assembly polls, Himachal Pradesh Rural Development minister Anil Sharma today quit the Virbhadra Singh government and joined the BJP.
“I have quit the Himachal cabinet and joined the BJP today,” Sharma, son of former Union communications minister Sukh Ram, said.
He added that the BJP had given him the party ticket from Mandi. “The party (BJP) has informed me about this,” he said.
Himachal Pradesh is slated to go to polls on November 9 and the development is seen as a jolt to Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh who was declared the Congress’s poll face last week.
Sharma alleged that he and his father were sidelined and being ignored in the Congress. He alleged that an AICC General Secretary had invited Sukh Ram to attend Rahul Gandhi’s rally in Mandi but on reaching the spot, he was asked not to attend the event.
Is Sukh Ram not a member of the Congress? Sharma asked.
“I was not included in any of the committees for the Assembly polls and when I asked about this from the HPCC president, he said that my name was deleted at the higher level, which hurt me and I decided to quit,” he said.
Himachal Chief Minister Singh, however, downplayed Sharma’s resignation.
“I had prior information about his quitting the party to join the BJP. But it would not impact the poll prospects of the Congress. If some other ministers also want to quit, they are free to do so,” the chief minister said.
The Mandi seat was represented by Sukh Ram from 1962 till November 1984, when he was elected to the Lok Sabha and his protégé D D Thakur won the seat in 1985.
In the 1993 Assembly poll, his son Anil Sharma won from Mandi but after Sukh Ram’s name surfaced in the Telecom scam, he was expelled from the Congress and formed Himachal Vikas Congress (HVC) which entered into a post-poll alliance with BJP and joined the government.
While Sukh Ram won from Mandi, Sharma was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1998.
In the 2003 Assembly polls, Sukh Ram was the sole HVC member who win a seat, again winning from Mandi. He joined the Congress ahead of the 2004 Lok Sabha polls.
Sharma won from Mandi in 2007 and 2012 as a Congress candidate and is set to contest as a BJP candidate this time.
Source Economic Times