Mandi, Apr 13: With Himachal Pradesh Governor Acharya Dev Vrat's acceptance of the resignation of Cabinet Minister Anil Sharma on Saturday, a 21-day suspense in the hill state ended.
Anil Sharma, son of the controversial politician, Pt Sukh Ram, had resigned on Friday from his Cabinet post, in the wake of the Indian National Congress fielding his son as a party nominee for the ensuing polls to the 17th House of the People.
The development is expected to change the political equations for the May 19 Lok Sabha elections in the hill state.
Sukh Ram has a deep following among the masses in the state.
The former Union Communications Minister is at present on bail in a corruption case. The highest court of the land had confirmed the Mandi strongman's five-year jail term.
Pressure was mounted by the state Bharatiya Janata Party leaders for the expulsion of Mr Sharma at the earliest, but chief minister Jai Ram Thakur waited for him to resign voluntarily.
Mr Sharma told reporters that it became imperative for him to quit the government when the chief minister had lost confidence in him.
Many of Mr Sharma's loyalists were upset and baffled and openly accused him of boarding the sinking ship of Indian National Congress.
Chief Minister Thakur had cautioned Mr Sharma against campaigning for Congress, failing which he could be deprived of the membership of the state legislative Assembly.
Sukh Ram, has been a shrewd politician all his life and active since the times of the first Chief Minister of the state, Yashwant Singh Parmar.
All the MLAs were solidly behind Thakur Karam Singh, the rival of Parmar. Minutes before the election, Dr Parmar took Karam Singh aside and murmured something in his ear. Seconds later, Thakur Karam Singh proposed the name of Dr Parmar for the post of the chief minister.
Later, Mr Karam Singh told his supporters that Dr Parmar confided,' It is irrelevant if you become CM or me, the powerful Punjab lobby would swallow the backward hill state.'
Cat and mouse game
A spokesman of the Raj Bhavan told UNI over phone that the Chief Minister would retain Mr Sharma's portfolio of Multi Purpose Projects and Power Minister, Non Conventional Energy Sources.
Mr Sharma's son Ashray was fielded by Congress from the Mandi parliamentary seat .
There was buzz that Mr Sharma would remain member of the BJP legislative party after quitting the Cabinet berth. However, he could not openly canvass for his son to avoid action against him under anti defection Act as he was elected on the BJP ticket in 2017 assembly election .
Mr. Sharma was also cabinet rank minister in the previous Congress dispensation between 2012 to 2017 before he joined the BJP along with his father and former union minister Pt Sukh Ram.
The break occurred over the differences with Congress party and Mr Sharma was elected for the fifth time on the BJP ticket.
Mr Sharma entered the state politics as political heir of Pt. Sukh Ram when he was elected to the Assembly in 1993 on Congress ticket. From 1993-1996, he was minister of state for youth services and sports .
He also remained member of Rajya Sabha from April 1998 to Apr. 2004 and was again elected from 1993 and 2007 and 2012 on the Congress ticket from Mandi assembly seat . He was allotted the cabinet portfolio of Panchayat Raj and Animal Husbandry in the 2012-17 Virbhadra Singh Government in the state.
Ruling BJP, which seems to be trapped in a political storm after the fast-paced developments, has now pressed Mr Sharma to also quit from his membership of the Assembly to which he was elected on the party's ticket.
Party General Secretary Chandermohan Thakur, in a media interaction on Saturday, asserted that Mr Sharma should resign as MLA if he has an iota of morality and seek fresh mandate from the public.
After he quit the cabinet berth, Mr Sharma challenged the Chief Minister to speak 'truth about allotment of the portfolio to him when he pressured him to get Public Works Department.'
Mr Sharma retorted that his father and he practiced the politics of morality.
Pt Sukh Ram, reckoned to be a force in the parliamentary segment, could pose a major challenge for BJP to retain the seat of sitting MP Mr Ram Swaroop. (UNI)