Congress in fix over politics of statues at Shimla’s Ridge - Hindustan Times
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Congress in fix over politics of statues at Shimla’s Ridge

Mar 05, 2024 05:14 PM IST

As BJP targets dynastic politics, Sukhu-led Congress govt in Himachal in a bind over demand from party members to install statues of former CMs Virbhadra and Thakur Ram Lal besides ex-Union minister Sukh Ram

Barely a week since he survived rebellion from six Congress MLAs in Himachal Pradesh, chief minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu finds himself in a fix over the politics of statues at Shimla’s iconic Ridge.

The Ridge has four statues, that of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, former prime minister Indira Gandhi, Dr YS Parmar, the state’s founder chief minister, and the recently established one of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee. (HT file photo)
The Ridge has four statues, that of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, former prime minister Indira Gandhi, Dr YS Parmar, the state’s founder chief minister, and the recently established one of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee. (HT file photo)

While the ruling BJP at the Centre is targeting dynastic politics across the country as a part of its Lok Sabha election strategy, the descendants of three Congress stalwarts of Himachal Pradesh have demanded that the Sukhu government provide space to put up the statues of former chief ministers Virbhadra Singh and Thakur Ram Lal besides former Union telecom minister Sukhram on the Ridge Maidan in the heart of Shimla.

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At present, the Ridge has four statues, that of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, former prime minister Indira Gandhi, Dr YS Parmar, the state’s founder chief minister, and the recently established one of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee besides a bust of former lieutenant general Daulat Singh at a park named after him.

In an emotional outburst while announcing his decision to quit the Sukhu cabinet last Wednesday only to decide later to stay on, public works minister Vikramaditya Singh cited how the contribution and legacy of his father, Virbhadra Singh, who was a six-time chief minister and five-time member of Parliament, had been forgotten.

Reiterating the demand to erect a statue of the former CM of the Rampur-Bushahr family, who was popularly known as Raja Sahib, at the Ridge, Vikramaditya recited a couplet of the last Mughal king, Bahadur Shah Zafar, who was exiled to Rangoon, to drive home his point: “Kitna hai bad-naseeb ‘Zafar’ dafn ke liye, do gaz zameen bhi na mili kuch-e-yaar mein.”

Vikramaditya Singh’s emotional plea was echoed by state education minister Rohit Thakur, who walked out of a recent cabinet meeting after a tiff with CM Sukhu over installing a statue of his grandfather and three-time chief minister Thakur Ram Lal.

It is learnt that Rohit Thakur and Sukhu got into an argument over policy decisions when the demand to erect the statue cropped up. “Not once but the block Congress committees of Jubbal and Kotkhai have passed resolutions on several occasions to erect a statue of Thakur Ram Lal, my grandfather, who was a two-time chief minister and even the governor of Andhra Pradesh,” he said later.

Thakur Ram Lal was elected MLA nine times from the Jubbal-Kotkhai assembly constituency. Rohit Thakur wants the statue of his grandfather alongside that of Virbhadra Singh at the Ridge.

Aashray Sharma, who was the Congress candidate from Mandi in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and lost to BJP’s Ramswaroop Sharma, has also demanded the government install a statue of his grandfather and former Union telecom minister Sukh Ram, who died in May 2022. Sukh Ram’s political career spanned six decades, starting as a secretary in the Mandi municipal council, he went on to become the Union minister. Though the telecom scandal left a lasting taint, he served as a Congress MLA for five terms and an MP for three terms.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Gaurav Bisht heads Hindustan Times’ Himachal bureau. He covers politics in the hill state and other issues concerning the masses.

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