After winning six elections in a row, between 1990 to 2007 from Rohru, an assembly constituency in the apple-belt, former Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh had to select a new constituency for his crucial 2012 election.
This was the time, when he was preparing for his sixth Chief Ministerial term as Rohru was reserved for the Scheduled caste (SC) candidates following the recommendations of the Delimitation Commission. During this time, Rohru witnessed a focussed development and improvements in local connectivity.
A visionary leader and an erstwhile king of Rampur Bushahr Virbhadra Singh, commonly known as “Raja Sahib”, picked up Shimla (rural)- a new sub-urban constituency, which was carved out of three constituencies of Shimla among which one is Kumarsein, a constituency represented by Congress stalwart late Jai Bihari Lal Khachi.
Virbhadra Singh won here by a record 20,000 margin and became Chief Minister- his last term of remarkable political innings.
During this period, the constituency populated by around 71,000 people witnessed massive infrastructural development, road network expansions, new water supply systems and opening of a large number of health and educational institutions.
In fact, Virbhadra Singh nursed the constituency as a launch-pad for his son—Vikramaditya Singh, who eventually won his first election in 2017 while father (CM) had moved on to Arki in Solan district. A son rose on the political horizon and eventually carved out his own place in Congress politics.
His term as state Youth Congress president before entering electoral politics also brought him to the central stage as a youth icon growing under the shadows of veteran leaders.
“My father's best lessons which transformed me and my thinking were humility, decency, commitment to the people and purity in thoughts. He (Virbhadra) used to scold me for some of my childish acts or using harsh words against opponents. My critics may say I belong to a dynasty or feudal background but fact remains I have come through a democratic process and never flaunted royalty,” Virkramaditya Singh told Outlook in an exclusive interview.
Set for Congress’s hat-trick, the Shimla (rural) constituency has now turned into a hot-spot in the 2022 assembly elections. BJP’s attempt to dislodge the Congress's royal family has failed to work so far.
In 2012 elections, the BJP fielded Ishwar Chand Rohal but denied him ticket in 2017 to field an academician-turned-young politician Dr Pramod Sharma, who lost the election by 4,880 votes.
This time again the BJP has changed its face fielding Ravi Mehta in place of Dr Sharma.
Vikramaditya Singh, 32, who has rightly managed to groom himself as a refined young politician, has on his shoulders the reasonability to carry forward the legacy of his legendary father. He is also the party's star campaigner devoting his time to tour for electioneering, as a support to his mother –Pratibha Singh, who is PCC president.
“I could be the first legislator who has given my record card to the constituency about the works I have done during the past five years. The total amount comes around Rs 100 crores” he told Outlook.
When Virbhadra Singh chose this little-known constituency for his election, he many a time described the place ‘too close to Shimla --the capital town, but too far in matters of development’. The situation is however now much different.
“The constituency has witnessed quite a significant transformation, opening of big institutions like National Law University, Judicial Academy Complex, two new colleges and road expansions. There is nevertheless a lot of unemployment. No big industry or business venture has come up” says Bhanu Pratap, a local shopkeeper.
The people in the constituency are pinning their hopes at return of the Congress to power. With ‘Tikka Sahib’ as Vikramaditya Singh is fondly known, (the scion of Rampur Busheshr family) in the race, the constituency will emerge as the most happening place.
There is quite a scope also for relocation of some of the government institutions and officers to decongest Shimla – the hill station.
“The congress is definitely coming to power with a comfortable two-third majority. There are many plans in my mind. Unemployment is the biggest election issue for us besides inflation and Old-age Pension (OPS),” Vikramaditya Singh adds.
Singh talks about the Virbhadra Singh model of development in the state but declined to comment as to who will be next Chief Minister, or whether it's going to be his family again at the central stage.
“The first and foremost thing is to see that Congress gets a majority. Thereafter elected MLAs will decide their leader. Our party has its own democratic mechanism to elect a Chief Minister. We will not have any problem as we have very matured leadership,” he says and particularly mentions names of AICC in-charge Rajiv Shukla and Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel.
How about his family, when asked by the young Congress MLA says, “My father has won 11-plus elections, of which four were that of Lok Sabha. We have seen so much power at home yet remained connected with the people—across length and width of the state. We are not running for any position –just want to see the Congress forming the government, my father’s last unfulfilled wish of the 2017 elections”.