The Six-time former chief minister and one of the country’s oldest surviving Congress stalwarts announced his exit from electoral politics on Thursday only to retract a few hours later.
Virbhadra Singh, 86, said on Thursday that he will not be contesting the next Assembly polls, slated for 2022. The video footing of his statement went viral on social media and news portals.
However, he tweeted from home saying “media took his comment (his decision not to fight the next poll) made in a lighter tone seriously. Retirement from politics will happen one day but only when the time comes or depending on political conditions then.”
A towering Congress leader, who had brought the Congress back to power in 2012, despite a series of vigilance cases filed against him in the state by the BJP government, however, lost power in 2017. But he won his election from Arki (Solan), a new constituency that he opted for.
Though he had been inactive for quite some time because of health reasons, Virbhadra Singh was travelling in his constituency on Thursday to meet newly elected panchayat and block development council (BDC) members of the party.
It was during this visit that he lashed out at what he called “traitors” of the party who were weakening the Congress. “They should be shown the doors to clean up the party for the future,” he said.
“Let me tell you, I will not be fighting the next election. But I will keep working for the party to strengthen it. I have always remained a loyal soldier, a born Congressman and will remain so till my last breath,” he said.
Turing quite emotional, the former chief minister hit out against those who had tried to backstab the party in the state. “These people have no place in the party. Better to show them the door and induct younger people, who are loyal and committed to the Congress. It is my advice to you (newly elected panchayat representatives),” he said.
Fondly called “Raja Sahib”, Virbhadra Singh is the only surviving Congress leader who has worked with first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.
A five-time Member of Parliament, he had also served as deputy minister in the Indira Gandhi cabinet and was minister for steel during UPA-II.
He was projected as the Congress’s chief ministerial candidate to pitch for his seventh term in 2017 but the Congress lost power paving the way for the return of the BJP and installing Jai Ram Thakur as chief minister after BJP’s chief ministerial nominee Prem Kumar Dhumal lost the election.
Virbhadra Singh was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time in 1962 and he became chief minister in 1983.
During his tenure as chief minister from 2012-17, the CBI and ED had filed corruption and disproportionate assets cases against him which are still pending in the courts.
It goes to his credit that he defied the party most of the time to become chief minister on his own strength in 1993, 2003 and also in 2012.
In his absence, Congress will face a daunting task to find a popular face like him for the next polls.
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