Before polls, Himachal minister Anil Sharma ditches Congress for BJP
In a blow to Congress, ahead of the Himachal polls, Anil Sharma, cabinet minister in the Congress-led Virbhadra Singh government, is all set to join BJP. Anil Sharma's father is Congress veteran Sukh Ram, who served as a Union Minister in PV Narasimha Rao's government. Himachal elections, which are touted as a Congress versus BJP showdown, will be held on November 9. Know more!
Who is Anil Sharma?
Anil Sharma, a three-time MLA from Mandi and former RS MP, had earlier served in the Virbhadra Singh cabinet in 1993-1996. He had resigned from the cabinet after father Sukh Ram was arrested in relation to the telecom scam. Sukh Ram was accused of taking Rs. 3L bribe to award a lucrative contract to the telecom firm in 1996, when he was telecommunications minister.
Sukh Ram had supported BJP earlier
In 1997, Anil Sharma joined the Himachal Vikas Congress (HVC), floated by Sukh Ram after expulsion from Congress. In 1998, Sukh Ram supported the BJP to form a Dhumal-led BJP government. However, before the 2004 LS elections, HVC was merged with Congress. In 2014, Sharma was given a cabinet berth despite protests within the party.
Were there any indications of this switch?
This might send shock waves through the Congress ahead of the polls because Congress VP Rahul Gandhi had addressed the party's first rally in Mandi on October 7 and Anil Sharma was present on the dais, as it was his constituency, and had thanked Rahul.
But, what prompted Sharma to join BJP?
Sharma told IE he will give up his cabinet post and that he couldn't "take any more humiliation of the Congress and its leaders." IE reports that Sharma had been in touch with BJP president Amit Shah and former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal so that his son be allowed to contest polls. The BJP will give the Mandi ticket to his son, Ashray Sharma.
Meanwhile, BJP's central election committee met to finalize candidates
Meanwhile, top BJP leaders including PM Modi and president Amit Shah met on Sunday to finalize names of party candidates who will contest Himachal elections. Though party has not announced the CM candidate, Dhumal and cabinet minister JP Nadda are the top contenders.