Lok Sabha Election

For Sukh Ram, life has come full circle

At 93, Pandit Sukh Ram is perhaps the oldest campaigner in Himachal Pradesh. He is barely audible, with his voice never rising above a murmur, but that does not stop him from addressing rallies for his grandson Ashray Sharma, the Congress nominee for the Mandi seat.

At his residence in Mandi town, Mr. Sukh Ram was preparing to fly down to Lahual-Spiti for another round of canvassing. “This is my last election campaign,” he said, implying that he had to give it all he had.

Sharp as ever

Age has not dulled his sharp mind and astute political sense. He opened the campaign for grandson Ashray by meeting his bête noire, former Chief Minister of the hill State, Virbhadhra Singh. They hugged and made up for the cameras, and photographs of the two rivals gingerly holding each other have been extensively used in Mr. Sharma’s campaign.

“When I met Virbhadhra Singh, I told him that the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) came to power in Himachal on account of our differences; whatever be our differences, please forgive me and bless my grandson,” Mr. Sukh Ram told The Hindu.

Recently, Mr. Sukh Ram broke down while speaking at a public meeting in Mandi, where he once again apologised to Mr. Singh, and also asked the Himachal voters for forgiveness for all his past mistakes.

Corruption scandal

In Mandi and the rest of the State, Mr. Sukh Ram is remembered for the extensive work he did as Telecommunications Minister. But in the rest of the country, he hit the headlines in 1996, after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) raids recovered ₹2.45 crore from his Delhi house and ₹1.16 crore from his Mandi residence, one of the largest hauls of currency notes till then. He was dismissed from the Congress after the bribery scandal broke. Since then, he has covered a long political distance, from forming his own party, the Himachal Vikas Congress (HVC), to joining hands with the BJP. But in the end, he has returned to where he started, the Congress.

The bitterness of not making it to the top post in the State never leaves him and he is well aware of this. “It was never meant to be. I would have become CM if it was in my destiny to be [CM],” he said.

His political clout is such that it took Mr. Sukh Ram only hours to get ticket for his grandson from the Congress, after the BJP turned them away.

‘Respect, honour’

“I joined the BJP only when I received a message from them that they would give me due respect and honour. I can’t disclose the source who reached out to me. The truth is that I brought the BJP to power in the State,” he said.

In 2017, the family joined the BJP in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Today, Mr. Sukh Ram claims the BJP makes promises only to capture power. His son, Anil Sharma, who till recently was Power Minister in Jai Ram Thakur’s government, is yet to resign from the party.

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Printable version | Jun 10, 2021 4:30:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/lok-sabha-2019/for-sukhram-life-has-come-full-circle/article27152554.ece

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