Saturday, July 6, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Mixed reaction in Himachal
Ghumarwin rally as scheduled
Tribune Reporters

Shimla, July 5
Conviction of Mr Sukh Ram in a case of corruption has come as an embarrassment for the BJP which wrested power in Himachal with the support of his HVC (Himachal Vikas Congress) and a setback to the Congress leaders try hard to get his expulsion from the party revoked before the coming Assembly elections.

It is interesting, his conviction has come just a day before Mr Sukh Ram was scheduled to celebrate the sixth year of his Himachal Vikas Congress (HVC) by holding a public meeting at Ghumarwin in the Bilaspur district tomorrow.

Mr Sukh Ram is an ally of the NDA government of Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee at the Centre as his HVC has one member each in both Houses of Parliament. The BJP government in Himachal was installed in 1998 only with the support of Mr Sukh Ram when a hung Assembly had emerged.

The ruling BJP circles here did not appear disappointed when the report of his conviction came in. However, Chief Minister, P.K. Dhumal, said that conviction of Mr Sukh Ram, who was enjoying a Cabinet Minister’s status as Chairman of the Employment Generation Committee, would have no implications for his government.

He said that when Mr Sukh Ram was supporting his government, how could he ask him not to do so.

The supporters of the CLP leader and former Chief Minister, Mr Virbhadra Singh, were jubilant over the conviction of Mr Sukh Ram and they said that the law had taken its course. Mr Virbhadra Singh himself, was not available for reaction as he was on a tour of Rampur.

Mr Sukh Ram had been describing CBI raids at his houses as political conspiracy and his supporters accusing Mr Virbhadra Singh of being responsible for the raids on his house at Mandi where nearly Rs 3 crore in cash was seized by the CBI in 1996 when the latter was the Chief Minister.

Right from the beginning a section of the BJP, particularly Union Minister, Mr Shanta Kumar, was not in favour of seeking the support of Mr Sukh Ram for forming the government in Himachal as the stigma of corruption attached to him. The Gujarat Chief Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, who at that time was looking after BJP affairs in Himachal also played significant role in persuading Mr Sukh Ram to support Mr Dhumal for forming BJP government here.

The BJP MLAs, including Mr J.P. Nadda and Mr K.K. Kapoor, who now are ministers, did not allow the proceedings of the Assembly to be held for six days when Mr Sukh Ram and his son, Mr Anil Sharma, were untraceable after recovery of the cash from his residence at Mandi.

Although he was a key factor in installing the BJP government in 1998, but now he was not crucial for its survival as his five-member HVC legislature group got fragmented with two of his MLAs, Mr Mansa Ram and Mr Prakash Choudhary, joining the BJP after becoming ministers and Mr Mohinder Singh splitting. Only two MLAs now were left with the HVC who include Mr Sukh Ram himself and Mr Ram Lal Markanda, Minister of State for Animal Husbandry.

The Himachal PCC chief, Mrs Vidya Stokes, who is considered close to Mr Sukh Ram, refused to make any comment on his conviction by describing it as a legal process and said that why should she react as he was not a member of the Congress.

MANDI: Hopes of the Himachal Vikas Congress (HVC), which was preparing to organise a “Vijay rally” here tomorrow expecting acquittal of the party chief and former Union Communication Minister, were dashed when a special court in Delhi sentenced him to three years’ rigorous imprisonment and imposed a heavy fine on him. The news of Mr Sukh Ram’s conviction spread like wild fire in his constituency.

His son, Anil Sharma, member of the Rajya Sabha, and state Vice-President of the HVC, who was in the town said his father had passed through many ups and downs in his life and would survive the crisis. He expressed faith in judiciary.

BILASPUR: Five senior leaders of the Himachal Vikas Congress (HVC) — State General Secretaries Shivlal Sharma, Chamanlal Gachali, Sunderlal Verma and party’s state spokesman Gian Chand Rattan and District President Major Shivram Sharma, all busy near here at Ghumarwin organising massive sixth “Foundation Day Rally” of the HVC tomorrow to honour party President Sukh Ram, said that today’s judgement of a lower court at Delhi convicting Sukh Ram in a case of corruption would not affect Sukh Ram’s position in the party and would not hit prospects of the HVC in Himachal Assembly elections eight months away.

They said that tomorrow’s rally at Ghumarwin would be held as scheduled and Sukh Ram would be “star attraction” of this show.

HAMIRPUR: The district unit of the Himachal Vikas Congress has made necessary arrangements for the party’s foundation day rally at Ghumarwin tomorrow. Thousands of party workers from Hamirpur would take part in the rally, according to Mr Deepak Sharma, Joint Secretary of the state unit of party.

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