Former Himachal chief minister eyeing ministerial berth

May 26th, 2009 - 8:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia Gandhi Shimla, May 26 (IANS) The Congress’ lone Lok Sabha MP from Himachal Pradesh Virbhadra Singh, 74, Tuesday pitched himself for a ministerial berth in the new government saying he had put in decades of hard work for the party.
“I am a sincere party worker. For the past many decades, I stood with the party… will remain sincere with it. If the high command feels that my services are required in the central ministry, they can ask me… otherwise I have no problem,” Singh told IANS on phone from Delhi.

Singh, who was a cabinet minister in the Indira Gandhi government in 1980, said: “The party told me to contest the parliamentary elections, I contested it and helped party win that seat.”

“If the party wants to use my experience, it is okay. I am happy with any role the Congress chooses for me,” said Singh, whose supporters are upset over the elevation of Rajya Sabha member from the state Anand Sharma to the cabinet level.

Sources close to him said he was hoping for a cabinet berth and was unhappy when he did not get the call during the first round of swearing in of ministers Friday.

Sharma and Singh are adversaries in state politics and the former is believed to be close to Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Popularly known as ‘Raja Saab’, Singh, who was the chief minister of the hill state five times, contested the Lok Sabha polls after a gap of 29 years.

Himachal Congress chief Kaul Singh Thakur said that it was the prerogative of the prime minister to select his cabinet.

Leader of the opposition in state assembly Vidya Stokes also echoed similar views.

“It’s the decision of the party high command (to allot berth in union ministry),” she said.

Stokes, who does not enjoy cordial relations with Singh, is a close confidante of Sonia Gandhi. She too advocated for the elevation of Anand Sharma.

The Congress only managed one of the four seats with Singh winning the Mandi seat by a margin of over 13,000 votes.

A former state cabinet minister said on condition of anonymity: “Singh is fighting a ’survival battle’ now. He has vast experience and is one of the seniormost MPs, having been elected first time as back as 1962.”

“If he is marginalised, it will demoralise the party cadre,” the leader said.

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